Turkish President Tayipp Erdogan declared on Thursday that relations between Turkey and the United States were “not healthy” and that the two countries needed to resolve their conflict over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems.
Erdogan was referring to Washington’s decision to sanction Turkey’s defense industry for working with Russia, which is considered a threat to the Euro-Atlantic alliance and incompatible with NATO technology.
The sanctions, which were published in the Federal Register this past April, were brought against the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), a government agency tasked with managing military technology and Turkey’s defense industry.
“The Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) has… selected certain sanctions to be imposed upon SSB and Ismail Demir, SSB’s president; Faruk Yigit, SSB’s vice president; Serhat Gencoglu, SSB’s head of the Department of Air Defense and Space; and Mustafa Alper Deniz, Program Manager for SSB’s Regional Air Defense Systems Directorate, pursuant to CAATSA,” the Department of State notice said at the time.
Erdogan Criticizes US-Turkey Relations at UN General Assembly
According to the notice, the SSB “has knowingly engaged in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.”
“I cannot say that a healthy process is running in Turkish-American ties… We bought F-35s, we paid $1.4 billion and these F-35s were not given to us. The United States needs to first sort this out,” Erdogan reportedly told the press after attending the UN General Assembly in New York.
Erdogan is referring to the US’ F-35 fighter jet program, which Turkey was kicked out of over their purchase of the Russian-made missile system.
The Turkish leader also said that “the current direction does not bode well,” between Washington and Ankara, and that President Joe Biden had not “started off right.”
In a pervious statement earlier this year, the State Department said that “Russian S-400s are incompatible with NATO equipment, threaten the security of NATO technology, and are inconsistent with Turkey’s commitments as a NATO Ally. This significant transaction from Russia triggered CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions under US legislation.”
Both Turkey and the United States have held fast with their positions on the matter, with Erdogan insisting that the S-400s were a “done deal” and Blinken dismissing any loopholes or compromises that would allow the US to lift their sanctions against the country.
Speaking at a virtual Foreign Press Center event, Blinken was asked whether a compromise was possible if Turkey moved the S-400 out of its territory. A Turkish journalist, specifically used the example of Greece stationing the Russian S-300 system on Crete as a model.
Blinken quickly dismissed the feasibility of imitating that scenario.
“They’re very distinct situations, very distinct examples. In some instances where people have bought equipment that long predates the sanctions legislation, for example, there – these are very distinct,” he responded, adding that Congress was clear in wanting to see the S-400 abandoned by Turkey.