Turkey accused the US of pressure over its purchase of a Russian air defense system and of pushing Ankara in “other directions,” in reference to the Turkish government’s developing ties with Russia.
Washington should foster strategic relations with its NATO ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson and foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalın told Bloomberg on Monday.
The State Department earlier urged Turkey to scrap a battery of missiles purchased from Russia in 2019, arguing that the system could obtain sensitive information on NATO’s defense system.
Subsequently, the US excluded Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program and imposed sanctions in December on Turkey’s Presidency of the Defense Industry over its S-400 agreement with Russia.
“If another country comes to us with a maximalist position and demands, you know, ‘it’s either my way or the highway,’ then that kind of attitude pushes you in other directions,” Kalın said in criticizing the American “push.”
“We don’t agree with Russia on everything, including [Bashar] Assad’s future, [Khalifa] Haftar, Crimea. However, we can manage our relations with constructive dialogue. Why we wouldn’t do the same with the US?” the spokesperson added.
Kalın said the two NATO allies had four main problems: Washington’s support for Kurdish groups in Syria, the S-400 missile defense system controversy, US sanctions on Turkey and the refusal to extradite Pennsylvania-based Fethullah Gulen, a spiritual leader Ankara accuses of masterminding an abortive coup in 2016.
Gulen and his movement deny any involvement in the coup attempt. The Turkish government has cracked down on hundreds of thousands of dissidents in an ongoing post-coup purge.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any positive steps on these issues so far. These are our main national security concerns. In other fields, for instance, in Iraq and Libya, we have cooperation against terrorism. So, we don’t talk about a pessimistic situation. We believe that these issues can be solved with constructive dialogue,” Kalın said.
Erdoğan’s aide urged the US to “understand Turkey’s security interests and end its support for Kurdish fighters in Syria.”
The US supports the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while Ankara deems the insurgent group a terrorist organization as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Also designated as a terrorist organization by the EU and and the US, the PKK is an autonomy-seeking armed group in southeastern Turkey.
Kalın said the issues “go to the very heart of our national security concerns. Turkey’s S-400 decision wasn’t taken overnight.”
US President Joe Biden is critical of the Erdoğan government, calling the Turkish president an autocrat in the past and criticizing his record on human rights while he was serving as vice president in the Obama administration.
Since he assumed office in January, Biden has yet to speak with Erdoğan in contrast to the tradition of phone calls by incoming US presidents to key allies.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday that the US president would call his Turkish counterpart “at some point.”
During the campaigns ahead of the US elections held in November, Turkish officials had attacked Biden over his remarks harshly criticizing Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule and vowing to assist Turkish opposition elements in winning in the next elections.