Turkey on Monday brushed away criticisms that it was moving away from the West amid the row over its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, urging the U.S. and European allies to seriously address its security concerns.
In an op-ed in Bloomberg, Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, said the accusations against Turkey include President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s alleged authoritarianism and Ankara undermining the NATO alliance.
"These charges are baseless. They point to a profound failure of understanding and a deliberate dismissal of Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, the regional dynamics in which it operates and the larger geopolitical realities," Kalin wrote.
"The claim that Turkey is no longer a reliable NATO ally is groundless," said Kalin, adding that Turkey plays a crucial role in all major NATO missions, from Kosovo and Bosnia to Lebanon and Afghanistan.
Last week, Washington announced it was taking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, following the threats to do so over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air system.
U.S. officials argued the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.
Besides the S-400 purchase, Turkey's exploration for oil and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a string of debates on the European level.
However, Kalin said these two events were not the only issues that have created the current crisis, which he said is "urgent and requires a broader perspective."
"Alliance does not mean monopoly: it does not mean some members are free to impose their agenda on others," said Kalin. "NATO cannot function properly when the security concerns of all members are not taken seriously. Turkey is no exception."
Kalin said Turkey’s security concerns are ignored in a systematic manner and criticized the U.S. and European countries for their insufficient support for Ankara against the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind a bloody defeated coup in 2016.
"Today, both the PKK and the Gulenists work freely out of Western countries. Turkey’s repeated requests for the extradition of the members of these terrorist networks have fallen on deaf ears," said Kalin.
Fetullah Gulen, the FETO terror group’s leader, is a legal resident of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. After years of requesting his extradition, Ankara has accused the U.S. of foot-dragging the process.
Kalin said Obama administration support for the PYD/YPG, the PKK terror group's affiliate in Syria, further harmed the bond of trust between the two allies.
The U.S. has supported the PYD/PYG as “allies” against terrorist groups in Syria, while Turkey has argued that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.
In its 30-year campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- recognized as a terror group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken some 40,000 lives, including many women, children, and infants.
- S-400 a 'necessity'
"This policy, currently continued under the Trump administration, also poses a serious threat to Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity, and opens the country for proxy wars along ethnic and sectarian lines," Kalin warned.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump will meet all Republican senators at the White House to discuss potential sanctions on Turkey over the S-400 purchase, the Washington Post reported.
Turkey’s earlier attempts to purchase the Patriot missile system from the U.S. bore no fruit. Also, the Obama administration removed Patriots from Turkey in 2015 at a time when Turkey remained under threat from the Syrian war.
Following unsuccessful efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S., Ankara was forced to approach Russia in 2017, to acquire the S-400 system.
"The Russian air defense system became not a choice but necessity for Turkey," Kalin said.
He also rebuked the EU on the Cyprus issue, saying the bloc accepted the Greek Cypriot administration as a full member without resolving the issue.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.
"The EU not only violated its own principles but also committed a great injustice against Turkish Cypriots," said Kalin.
"Most recently, the Turkish side’s offer to establish a regime of fair and equal share of resources in the eastern Mediterranean has again been rejected," he added.
Kalin asserted that Turkey is not moving away from the West or any other part of the world but expanding and diversifying its foreign-policy options.
"But it is being pushed away at the expense of the security and integrity of NATO.
"Instead of instrumentalizing Turkey for their short-term interests, our Western friends and allies need to treat Turkey as an equal partner and address its security concerns in a serious manner," he said.
By Servet Gunerigok in Washington, D.C.