Close ties with Russia no substitute for other alliances, says Turkey
by Merve Aydoğan
ANKARAJan 13, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Merve Aydoğan
Jan 13, 2017 12:00 am
Amid claims that Turkey shifting its axis from the West and NATO toward Russia, Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said Turkey's efforts to enhance relations with its Black Sea neighbor did not represent an alternative path to the country's existing partnership with NATO. Speaking on the third day of the Ambassadors Conference in Ankara, the defense minister further criticized NATO's stance against Turkey. He said "Turkey's developing relations with Russia does not mean a weakening of relations with NATO," and that there was a "systematic perception management" being conducted against Turkey in the West.
"Turkey is one of the most important members of NATO, and has its second largest army. Turkey is devoted to all conditions that are required by the alliance," Işık added.
He also criticized the NATO for not hearing Turkey's calls and urged it to fulfill the pledges made to the country. He drew attention to the lack of cooperation between the coalition states in the fight against Daesh, while noting that NATO was yet to fulfill pledges made over the southeast of Turkey in regards to counterterrorism operations.
The minister also talked about homegrown weapons productions and said that 15 years ago Turkey was "80 percent dependent" on foreign arms producers, but has brought that figure down to just 40 percent and is continuing with efforts to decrease it even further.
Reiterating that Iraq and Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity were of great importance to Turkey, Işık said, "In an effort to curb Turkey's ability to affect regional developments, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has emerged against us."
While urging Turkish ambassadors worldwide to conduct an effective and active campaign against FETÖ abroad, Işık also called upon the ambassadors to actively promote the upcoming International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) on May 9-12.
Minister Işık asked the ambassadors to compile reports on developments in the defense sector and convey it to the National Defense Ministry in efforts to further enhance Turkey's defense industry.
Turkey has slowly increased the domestic production of weapons and military equipment over the past decade, both under public and private sectors.
Some of the projects are still in the developmental stage, while others, such as the MPT rifle, have already been unveiled. Others projects include the ATAK helicopter, commissioned in 2014, the self-propelled Howitzer "Fırtına," unmanned aerial vehicles, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems, warships and tanks, which have all been used in counterterrorism operations.
Meanwhile, he also focused on the ongoing U.S. support for the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD): "We will continue to say that the PYD is a terror organization and that it is not legitimate to cooperate with them in the region. We hope that Trump and his administration to take over on Jan. 20 will hear Turkey's calls and refrain from making the same mistake."
Işık said cooperating with terror groups can never be perceived as legitimate and described it as "going into a sack full of snakes together.