Turkey’s Erdogan dismisses US calls to ditch Russian kit
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed a US proposal to ditch its Russian S-400 missile defences, saying the suggestion infringes on Turkey’s sovereign rights.
The strongman president told broadcaster NTV that Donald Trump urged him to scrap the S-400 systems, which began arriving in July.
Erdogan said he and Trump “can work together to finish Islamic State and bring peace to Syria. The most reliable US partner in the region to do this is Turkey.”
In response, the US has banned sales of 110 F-35 supersonic fighter jets to Turkey and removed it from a multinational manufacturing programme for the plane.
Erdogan said he saw a much more positive approach to the F-35 issue from Trump.
He said Turkey was willing to purchase Washington’s Patriot air defence systems. The populist president said he and Trump were engaged in “sincere efforts” to resolve their disputes, which have recently centred on the Syrian civil war. Turkey’s incursion into Syria last month displaced Syrian Kurdish forces that until recently fought with US personnel against Islamic State militants.
“We told them we can purchase the Patriots too. We regard the proposal to completely remove the S-400s as meddling in our sovereign rights,” Erdogan told the Turkish media. “There can be no question of us leaving the S-400s and turning toward the Patriots.
“I want both America and Russia to be my friend. All our efforts are geared toward that.”
Erdogan said he returned an October 9 letter from Trump calling for Erdogan to show restraint in Syria. Trump reportedly wrote: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
Erdogan said the tycoon turned populist did not react when he handed him back the letter.
David Petraeus, a former CIA director, said Turkey’s recent behaviour was “deeply concerning” but the US must work to mend strained relations.
“Turkey is a very, very important country to Nato, it is very geostrategically important in its positioning and a variety of different ways. It played an important role as a base for our aircraft and other assets in the region, so again I hope this can be resolved,” the former commander of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan added.
An F-35. Picture credit: Wikimedia