Unless US changes tack, it will lose a strong ally in Turkey

DAILY SABAH
JOHANNESBURG
Published 29.07.2018 00:00
Updated 30.07.2018 11:09
U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gesture as they talk at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018.  (REUTERS Photo)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gesture as they talk at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. (REUTERS Photo)

The U.S.' failure to act like an ally, its open support for terrorists targeting Turkey and recent spate of threats will eventually result in it losing Turkey as an ally, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said early Saturday.

The U.S. had failed to perform its obligations as a NATO ally, Erdoğan said, adding, "The weapons they gave to terrorists are now being sold on the black market. The 5,000 truckloads of weapons are a huge source of money for them."

The U.S. is arming the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist group, but maintains they are different groups. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and EU.

"Do they think we are unaware of what's going on? No matter what happens, they will not alter our position," President Erdoğan said.

He added that the commotion caused by the U.S. over Turkey's purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems had not altered Ankara's position.

"Did those who asked us to forgo the system ask Greece to return the S-300 it currently uses? No," he said.

The president also dismissed American threats about not handing over the F-35s it had purchased. Turkey is one of the partner countries in the production of the F-35 fighter jets.

"We told them that if you do not hand them over, there is such a thing called international arbitration. If things deteriorate, there are always alternatives," he said.

Erdoğan explained that when Turkey asked for missile defense systems or drones from their allies, they failed to get any.

"Only Spain's Patriot system is in Turkey now. The rest just left," he said. "We still patiently cooperated. However, they failed to respond in kind. Some things necessitate patience. We will continue to show patience. However, no one should forget the fact that we do not live in a world without alternatives."

When asked about the U.S.' sanctions threats over pastor Andrew Craig Brunson and U.S. President Donald Trump's sudden change of attitude toward Turkey, Erdoğan said, "The change of attitude, as you well know, is not my problem. It is Trump's. I cannot say anything different."

He said reports over him and Trump negotiating the release of Brunson in exchange for the release of a Turkish citizen Ebru Özkan by Israel were untrue. Turkey had asked U.S. authorities through Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for help in Özkan's return home, Erdoğan said.

"Özkan at the time was not under arrest. She was released pending her trial and her passport was seized. She was not being allowed out. We never agreed to release Brunson in exchange for Özkan's return home. Still, Trump graciously called [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and asked for his help. Netanyahu made a statement about releasing Özkan after Trump's call. However, I repeat, there was no bargaining as reported," Erdoğan said.

There are issues the two countries are discussing, Erdoğan added, citing the extradition of Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) leader Fethullah Gülen and the jailed Halkbank Deputy General Manager Hakan Atilla as examples in addition to Brunson.

"Every country has its judiciary. In Turkey, the court decided to order Brunson's release from jail to house arrest over concern about the pastor's health. Instead of respecting the court's decision, the U.S. is turning it into a matter worthy of sanctions. Such threats will not force Turkey's hand," he said.

He said he believed the U.S. administration was engaged in a sort of psychological warfare, which will fail.

"We will maintain our position and patiently continue on our course," he said.

On the U.S.' call to cease purchasing natural gas from Iran, Erdoğan said, "[Former President Barack] Obama had at one point said the same thing. From whom will I purchase the gas then? During winter, my people will go cold. How will I address that? I said the same thing to Trump. He criticized the Germans, arguing that they were enriching the Russians. It's exactly that. But I told him we purchase half of our gas from Russia. We also purchase from Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and sometimes from Algiers. What will I do when there is no gas coming and my people are cold? Afterward, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel also objected, asking what she will do when 38 percent of their gas is coming from Russia."

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