Defense Ministers Akar, Shanahan discuss Turkey-US cooperation, security

Published 29.05.2019 11:06
Updated 29.05.2019 17:15
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AA Photo

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday discussed security and cooperation issues with his U.S. counterpart Patrick Shanahan.

Akar discussed the matters in a phone call with Shanahan, the acting U.S. defense secretary, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not elaborate on the content of the conversation.

A key issue on the two countries' bilateral agenda is the fight against terror groups in Syria, where the U.S. has backed the PKK terror group's Syrian branch People's Protection Units (YPG), supposedly in its bid to oust Daesh from the region. Ankara has long voiced its objections to this dubious partnership, arguing that arming one terror group to fight another will not achieve the desired outcome.

Hulusi indicated earlier this month that the U.S. has moved closer to Turkey's position in Syria and showing some flexibility in its approach to a planned safe zone to be established in northern parts of the country along the border with Turkey.

Turkey, having already cleared Daesh and YPG terrorist groups from border regions in Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northern Syria, aims to establish a 30-40 km deep buffer zone in the area stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border after the planned U.S. pull out from the region.

Ankara and Washington are also in ongoing discussions about Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, with the U.S. threatening to halt manufacturing support for the F-35.

Ankara's ties with Washington have been strained over Turkey's decision to buy the Russian-made defense system, and U.S. officials threatened Turkey's removal from the F-35 program, halting the delivery of jets to the country and excluding Turkish manufacturers from joint production. However, Turkey received two more jets two weeks ago after the delivery of the first batch in June 2018, and four Turkish pilots currently continue their training at the Arizona base.

Ankara has proposed a working group with the United States to assess the impact of the S-400s, but says it has not received a response from U.S. officials.

The Ankara-Moscow S-400 deal was inked in December 2017, when the parties signed a $2.5 billion agreement for two batteries of the systems – Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system in use since 2007.

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