image Photo: Reuters

Turkey to US: S400s a ‘done deal’

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said he informed United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defenses is not up for discussion.

“On the S-400s, we reminded them once again why Turkey had to buy them, and repeated that Turkey had bought them and this is a done deal,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Brussels after their first face-to-face meeting since Blinken took office.

The US has sanctioned its NATO-ally and removed it from its F-35 fighter jet program over the S-400 dispute. There is also friction between the sides ranging from policy over Syria policy to human rights.

The two envoys met ahead of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels ahead of a 2-day European Union summit that opened today.

Çavuşoğlu nevertheless described the talks as constructive and said Ankara wants to meet its future defense needs primarily from NATO allies. He also said his nation has agreed on the need to keep discussing differences with Washington.

While Ankara claims that it wants better ties with Washington under US President Joe Biden, the two countries’ leaders have yet to speak. Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized as “unacceptable” the characterization of Russia’s Vladimir Putin as “a killer” by the American leader.

“We may discuss these and what future steps to take on strategic topics by establishing a bilateral working group,” he said, adding that he told his American counterpart, “We need to work on a roadmap.”

For its part, the US State Department issued a press release saying that Blinken had “discussed the longstanding importance of security cooperation between the United States and Turkey,” but that the Secretary “urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system.”

Washington has repeatedly rejected a working group to discuss the S-400s.

Secretary Blinken also “expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and emphasized the importance of democratic institutions and respect for human rights,” the State Department said.

Other topics of discussion included Afghanistan peace talks slated to be held in Istanbul next month, and Blinken’s expression of “support for ongoing exploratory talks between NATO Allies Turkey and Greece,” said State Department Spokesman Ned Price.

In related developments, Minister Çavuşoğlu declared that the European Union needs to stop “playing for time” and should take concrete steps to improve positive momentum in ties.”

Last year the EU threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over its dispute with EU member Greece over maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean but halted the move after Erdoğan adopted a more conciliatory tone.

According to a draft statement set for approval at this week’s EU summit, the 27-member bloc is prepared to deepen trade ties with Turkey while maintaining consideration of punitive economic measures if Ankara moves against its interests.