Turkey looks forward to working with Biden administration - Turkish Defence Minister
Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that he and his country are looking forward to cooperating with the incoming administration under Joe Biden in the United States.
"We wish to work closely with our counterparts in the new U.S administration," Akar said in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum which joined via video link from the Ministry of Defence building in Ankara.
The minister acknowledged that differences exist between Turkey and the U.S on a wide range of topics. Pointing specifically to the Russian S-400 that pushed Washington to expel Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet programme and to contemplate sanctions against it, Akar repeated that the missiles posed no threat to the U.S.
"Please consider that our only goal is to provide air and missile defence for 83 million Turkish citizens and our country. That's it," Akar insisted, adding after that the security of the F-35's advanced technology was "just as vital for Turkey as it is for the United States." He reiterated that Turkey's previous offers to resolve the dispute, including a technical committee to evaluate any danger from the S-400 to NATO, remained on the table. He also encouraged the U.S to drop any talk of sanctions.
"We must avoid the language of threats and sanctions which are not an appropriate means to address differences among almost 70 year old allies," said Akar.
It has been widely expected that Biden, who has promised to stand up to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his campaign, would act more strongly against Turkey for its purchase of the S-400. However, Biden foreign policy advisor Michael Carpenter said the new administration would not be looking to sanction Turkey if it chose to forego the S-400 and pursue a less bellicose foreign policy. Akar said Turkey ran the process of the procurement of the S-400 transparently and there was no other choice left for Turkey.
Akar also defended Turkey's contributions to NATO as well as other foreign policy actions in its region.
He described NATO as the "cornerstone of our defense and security policy" before listing areas where his country played its part in supporting the alliance in terms of financial and military contributions. Even Turkey's actions in Syria and Libya, Akar framed these as in defence of NATO's borders that required more understanding from other member states.
On the eastern Mediterranean, Akar's address echoed remarks made by President Erdoğan to the forum on Saturday. In his own pre-recorded speech to the forum, Erdoğan denied Turkey was pursuing an "irredentist" foreign policy but criticized fellow NATO members Greece and Cyprus for denying Turkey access to natural resources in the region.
Both Akar and Erdoğan said that Turkey remained interested in diplomacy over these maritime disputes under the auspices of NATO and called for a new forum to decide on how best to share the hydrocarbon resources in the waters off Cyprus.
Turkish President displayed a sharp swing over the weekend by declaring Turkey's future will be with the West, and said: "We don't see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe. We envisage building our future together with Europe.” Commentators said one of the reasons Erdoğan has made a few important changes is to adjust itself to accommodate the incoming Biden administration.