U.S. presents 'alternatives' to Turkey on S-400 system

The United States has presented "alternatives" to Turkey in order to lift sanctions imposed on the country over the acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in an interview with CNN Turk.

“We have offered alternatives to Turkey, they know exactly what to do if they want to get out from underneath these sanctions,” Sherman insisted. “We have talked about ways to take the necessary steps. And this will be a decision for Turkey to take.

"I hope that we can find a way forward.”

Sherman had visited Ankara this week, the first visit to Turkey by a Biden administration official, in order to nudge the Turkish government into action on this issue, as the White House has declared it will not budge.

Either Turkey will move the S-400 missile defence system out of the country, or send it back to Russia: Those are the alternatives currently on offer. There had been speculation that Turkey could move the S-400 to Azerbaijan or Qatar as a compromise, but there has been no such offer by Ankara thus far.

Washington imposed sanctions on Turkish officials in December 2020 under a U.S. law that bars significant military transactions with Russia. Turkey was also removed from the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet programme by the Pentagon in 2019 due to concerns over possible Russian espionage through the S-400s.

The United States is also concerned about the trajectory of democracy and human rights, Sherman told CNNTürk on Friday during an interview.

Wendy Sherman held a meeting with Turkey Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal on Thursday, discussing regional issues including Afghanistan and Syria, according to the Turkish media.

Sherman also met with civil society leaders while in Ankara, posting a photo of the meeting on her Twitter account.

It was my pleasure to meet with civil society partners in Ankara today to discuss concerns and ways to support civil society in Turkey. The U.S. is unwavering in our commitment to human rights, including gender equality, empowering women and girls, and protecting LGBTQI+ rights. pic.twitter.com/3VmZXqlpEL

— Wendy R. Sherman (@DeputySecState) May 28, 2021

During her interview with CNNTürk, Sherman said she met with the business community and civil society leaders in Turkey, and that everybody agreed on the fact that Turkey had “enormous potential for growth." She said what the business community was looking for was "predictability, sound fiscal and monetary policies. And they are looking for the rule of law,” she said.

The deputy secretary said Turkey would need to respect human rights and democracy in order to be able to use its potential, and to own its place among the international community.

The United States has a multi-dimensional foreign policy, Sherman said, but U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have put democracy and human rights in the centre of foreign relations. Sherman said for a country to use its full potential, it needs to have everybody participating in democracy.

Sherman also said the Turkish government's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on violence against women was also very saddening.

U.S. Deputy Sec of State Wendy Sherman posed with a face mask that read "Istanbul Convention is ours” in-between her meetings with Turkish officials in Ankara on Friday
Pres Erdoğan pulled Turkey out of the Convention on Preventing & Combating Violence against Women, in March pic.twitter.com/TRY4cbfmi0

— Ahval (@ahval_en) May 28, 2021

Sherman, speaking about the expected bilateral meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Biden, said that Turkey was a very important and strategic NATO ally, with which Washington worked closely in Libya and Afghanistan to make sure everybody, including China and Russia, played by the global rules and global world order.

Sherman said the meeting between leaders would be an opportunity for Biden to emphasise these positive aspects of the relationship, adding that Biden would also talk about the trajectory of Turkey. According to Sherman, the U.S. President will express his concerns about human rights and democracy in Turkey.

The United States has one objective only, the deputy secretary said, in its support for the Syrian Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG): “To get rid of the Islamic State (ISIS). This is the only mission.”

YPG was the key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main fighting force on the ground for the international coalition against ISIS. Turkey considers YPG to be an extension of Kurdish militia fighting on its soil, and as such, a terrorist organisation.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in a tweet message on Friday, said officials from both countries had “confirmed the strategic nature of Turkey-United States relations, exchanged views on regional issues and underlined the importance of the fight against terrorism”.