President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made it clear that Turkey is cooperating with Russia in Syria because the U.S. preferred to form an alliance with a terrorist organization instead of its NATO ally.
Speaking on BBC's HARDTalk program that aired Monday morning, President Erdoğan expressed that the tripartite steps that Turkey is taking in Syria with Russia and Iran are steps toward peace for the Syrian people.
The president said that it was not possible to take part in operations with the U.S., the U.K. and France in Syria, and that it is why they are working with Russia.
"The U.S. acted with a terrorist organization in the Raqqa operation. We told them that we should 'do it together' but they preferred not to cooperate with us against terrorism. And so, we took that step with Russia," he said.
The PKK, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU, has expanded its influence in northern Syria through its affiliates there - the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People's Protection Units (YPG). The U.S. has been supporting the YPG with arms against Daesh despite significant criticism from Turkey.
Turkey has undertaken two military operations in northern Syria, freeing the Afrin and al-Bab regions from YPG occupation. Erdoğan said that Turkey would not allow such terror organizations to form a terror corridor in the region.
Ankara has repeatedly warned against the repercussions of using one terrorist group to defeat another, while the U.S. has been insisting on the "effective results" of its cooperation with the YPG in the fight against Daesh.
Addressing the chemical weapons used by the Bashar Assad regime, Erdoğan said Turkey had shared its information on weapons used in the Douma attack with some other countries.
The president told the BBC that Turkey was in favor of a political solution in Syria and there had been quite a few peace processes. He said the Geneva peace talks had not managed to solve the issue and then the Astana process began.
The Astana peace talks were launched in January 2017 by Turkey, Russia and Iran with the aim of putting an end to the violence and improving the humanitarian situation in war-torn Syria. Kazakhstan has hosted eight meetings in its capital city of Astana so far and the ninth round of the talks began Monday and is expected to end today.
Erdoğan added that more steps had been taken in Sochi with Russia and Iran, which would be followed by new meetings in Ankara and Tehran. A summit was held in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi on Jan. 29-30. It was an attempt to bring all warring parties in the Syrian conflict, excluding the terrorist groups, to the table to facilitate the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.
Turkey will buy weapons from wherever it can
President Erdoğan talked about the compatibility of the S-400 missile defense system that it purchased from Russia with NATO systems. He said Turkey would buy its weapons from where it could and added that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had made a similar comment.
He said if Turkey is not allowed to buy weapons from the U.S. or any other NATO country, it would get the weapons it needs from wherever it could find them.
"We have an agreement with Russia to buy S-400s with the condition of joint production," he added. "We do not have any concerns on whether we should purchase [those missiles] or not. We have finished that business; we have signed [the agreement]."
Turkish officials have been stressing that Turkey had approached its NATO allies to purchase defense systems; however, its needs remained unmet which prompted Turkey to purchase the Russian S-400 system. Turkey will be the first NATO member country to acquire the state-of-the-art system.
Moreover, Turkey seeks to build its own missile defense systems as the deal also involves the transfer of technology and know-how. The S-400 system, which was introduced in 2007, is the new generation of Russian missile systems, and so far Russia has only sold them to China and India.