Monday, 22 April, 2019

Pompeo pushes back against Turkey, stands by U.S. account of disputed meeting

Turkish President Erdogan attends a news conference at Huber Mansion in Istanbul Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at Huber Mansion in Istanbul Turkey
Leonard Rios | 06 April, 2019, 04:53

Turkey's agreement to buy the Russian S-400 system has further tested its relations with Washington, stoking U.S. concern about Erdogan's burgeoning relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Turkey's pledge to purchase an S-400 missile system from Russian Federation has become a point of contention between the country and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies over the past several years.

"And we can not ensure the defense of the west if our allies grow dependent on Russian Federation and if Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as President Trump has said", Pence stated.

Cavusoglu said the S-400 system would be separate from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation infrastructure in Turkey with no linkages to the F-35s.

The Trump administration tried enticing Turkey to scrap its reported $2.5 billion deal with Moscow by making a counter-offer: in January, American officials let Ankara know it could buy Raytheon's $3.5 billion Patriot surface-to-air missile system at a discount valid until the end of March.

The NATO allies are at odds over issues including United States support for a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as terrorists by Ankara and Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile system over United States objections. The potential economic opportunities between Turkey and the United States were also a focus of the discussion.

"Turkey must choose", Pence warned on Wednesday, as he strongly criticized its planned S-400 purchase. The United States this week halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey.

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Washington has warned that proceeding with the deal could result in US sanctions and the exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program.

The gathering of 30 foreign ministers at the State Department focused on threats from Russian Federation and China.

"All NATO allies made a pledge to invest more in defense to improve burden-sharing in our alliance, and I expect all allies, including Germany, of course, to make good on the pledge we made together", the NATO secretary general said. Turkey is also looking into a French-Italian system based on the SAMP-T missile systems.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay responded on Twitter to Pence's ultimatum: "The United States must choose".

The high turnout for Turkey's municipal elections on Sunday is a lesson in democracy for the whole world, the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated. "We have to shoulder responsibility in order to continue safeguarding it, in our own interest", he said.

"Turkey was on board the F-35 program from day one", says Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank that receives some of its funding from F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Spokesperson Hami Aksoy accused the State Department of having written its readout before the meeting had even taken place and said that it included things that were never brought up.

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