The U.S. is still an ally despite its mistakes – Turkish PM

Turkey is to reopen its airspace to flights to and from Erbil following a similar move by the Iraqi central government, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters outside a mosque after Friday prayers, nationalist newspaper Yeniçağ said.

“Following the Northern Iraqi referendum, of which we did not approve, the airspace was closed. The Iraqi central government has reopened the airspace. We are opening our airspace in the same sense,” he said.

“However, this solely relates to Erbil. No flights will be able to take place to Suleymaniyah.”

Erbil, the capital of the region, is controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which maintains good relations with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

Near Suleymaniyah, however, are strongholds of the opposition Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which played a role as a middleman between U.S. forces and Kurdish fighters belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) earlier in the Syrian conflict.

The YPG’s sister party in Turkey is currently mounting an armed rebellion, while Turkey entered the Syrian region of Afrin to fight the YPG on the ground on Jan. 20.

Yıldırım also talked about increasing speculation that Patriot missiles would be purchased by his government from the United States.

“NATO’s borders begin at Turkey’s southern borders,” he said. “The United States is still an ally despite a series of mistakes in the Syrian region. Our work on Patriots and missile defence systems in line with NATO will continue. They are not an alternative to the (Russian-made) S-400s.”