Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has told United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile-defence system was “a done deal”, in their first face-to-face meeting since the latter took office.
NATO allies Turkey and the US have been at odds over a host of issues in recent years, including Syria, human rights and the S-400 system acquisition, over which Washington has sanctioned Ankara and removed it from its F-35 fighter jet programme.
“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, where the two officials met on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
Describing the talks as constructive, Cavusoglu said Ankara Turkey to meet its future defence needs primarily from NATO allies and agreed on the need to keep discussing differences with Washington.
“We may discuss these and what future steps to take on strategic topics by establishing a bilateral working group,” he said. “We need to work on a roadmap.”
The US State Department said Blinken had “urged” Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defence system. Washington has repeatedly rejected a working group to discuss the S-400s.
Former US President Donald Trump in December imposed sanctions on Ankara’s military procurement agency over the acquisition.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defence systems. Turkey rejects this, saying S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and purchasing them was a necessity as it was unable to procure air defence systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
Blinken was appointed secretary of state following the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20. Ankara has said it wants better ties with Washington under Biden, but the two countries’ leaders have yet to speak. Last week, Erdogan criticised Biden’s remarks about Vladimir Putin, in which he called the Russian president a “killer”, as “unacceptable”.
Cavusoglu and Blinken also discussed planned Afghanistan peace talks in Istanbul next month, the State Department said.
Spokesman Ned Price said the US also raised Turkey’s decision at the weekend to pull out of an international treaty designed to protect women from violence.
Blinken “expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention … and emphasised the importance of democratic institutions and respect for human rights,” he said.
Turkey said domestic laws, not outside fixes, would protect women’s rights.
While the Biden administration is still formulating its overall policy on Turkey, it insists that it sees the country as a key ally.
“It’s no secret that we have differences with Turkey,” Blinken said at the two-day NATO meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s also no secret that Turkey is a longstanding and valued ally and one that I believe we have a strong interest in keeping anchored to NATO.”