Erdoğan says Turkey to go ahead with the purchase of the second batch of Russian defence missiles- report

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed Ankara’s plans to go ahead with the purchase of the second batch of Russian-made S-400 missiles, despite Washington’s warnings that the defence system puts NATO’s security at risk.

"In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defence systems we acquire, from which country, at what level. Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions," Erdoğan told CBS News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

"Of course, yes," Erdoğan said in response to CBS’s question over its intention to buy another round of Russian missiles.

Turkey and the United States have a fractured relationship due to policy differences over Syria, Israel, Libya and Erdoğan’s decision to purchase S-400 air defence missiles from Russia, which has resulted in U.S. sanctions.

The Pentagon and State Department have called on Turkey to abandon a battery of missiles purchased from Russia in 2019 and to scrap plans to buy more, saying the system could gather sensitive information on NATO’s defences, including the new F-35 stealth fighter jet. Turkey has been excluded from a programme to build and purchase the aircraft in response. The U.S. administration also imposed sanctions on Turkish defence officials.

Washington’s refusal to sell Turkey the U.S.-made Patriot missile systems as an alternative had led his government to purchase the Russian system instead, Erdoğan told CBS, a claim that the U.S. has disputed.

In January 2019, Washington submitted a proposal to Ankara for Turkey’s purchase of U.S. made Patriot surface-to-air missiles, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency.

The U.S. State Department in December 2018 also informed the U.S. Congress that it had approved a $3.5 billion sale of missile systems to Turkey. The package approved included 80 Patriot missiles, 60 PAC-3 missile interceptors and related equipment.

However in August 2019, the U.S. administration had formally withdrawn its offer to Turkey for Patriot batteries, after Turkey had started receiving the delivery of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in July, a U.S. State Department official told CNN.

During the interview, Erdoğan also said that he would prefer that the U.S. pull out its remaining 900 troops in neighbouring Syria.

The United States was instrumental in the creation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of militias dominated by the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearheads the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS).

But Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it has been involved in an internal conflict with since 1984.  

Differences over the SDF have been a long-standing cause of tension in U.S.-Turkey relations, leading former U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw of U.S. troops from Northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish military operation against the group.

Trump’s decision was partially reversed following international outcry, including in the United States. Joe Biden described the withdrawal as “selling-out” the SDF,  leading to speculation he would take a more assertive stance in favour of the group.

Turkey has launched three major military operations in northern Syria in the last five years to limit the SDF’s growing influence as the key partner on the ground for the U.S.-led international collation against ISIS.

The SDF now controls nearly one third of Syrian territory, encompassing both overwhelmingly Kurdish and Arab regions.

The human rights issues in Turkey also remains as a matter of friction between the two countries.

During his presidential campaign in January 2020, Biden told The New York Times that Erdoğan was an “autocrat."

After his inauguration in January this year, the Biden administration also slammed Turkey over its human rights records, raising concerns over a number of indictments of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkey, in an emailed statement to Ahval.

Commenting on Biden’s remarks over Erdoğan’s autocratic tendencies, "Mr. President's definition of an autocrat remains unknown to me, I don't know what he meant," Turkish president told CBS.

Biden has never raised any concern about human rights abuse issues to him during their personal conversations, Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan and Biden last met in Brussels in June, on the sidelines of a NATO Summit.

"We think that there are no issues between U.S. and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems," Erdoğan said after the meeting.

During the meeting, Erdoğan also offered to run the Kabul airport in Afghanistan after a

U.S. decision to withdraw its forces from the country at the end of August, which was designed to help repair fractured ties.

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, two weeks before the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, Ankara made the same offer to the Taliban, saying that would help the Islamic group establish international legitimacy.

 

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