Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles is an issue concerning the bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S., not NATO, said Turkey’s envoy to NATO.
“S-400 is not a NATO problem, it is a bilateral problem, the U.S. including of NATO to this [issue] and harming the coherency of the alliance would be a mistake,” Basat Ozturk, Turkey’s permanent representative to NATO, told Anadolu Agency at the headquarters of the bloc.
Ozturk said the U.S. is expected to be in cooperation and unity in accordance with the shared values of NATO, and comply with the spirit of alliance.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have escalated in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile defense system, which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the F-35 program and could trigger sanctions.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400.
U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
The country has urged formation of a commission to clarify any technical issues, but the U.S. has failed to respond to this proposal.
Turkey’s activities in Eastern Mediterranean
Ozturk said that the activities of Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Eastern Mediterranean were not addressed at NATO, though it was carried to the EU.
“As Turkey is part of NATO, the issue of Eastern Mediterranean is not being discussed there in a poisonous way,” he stressed.
Ozturk said if Turkey was an EU member, the EU could not take a position on Eastern Mediterranean as it did.
“The EU could not take a side on the problems between its members,” he underlined.
European Council head Donald Tusk had previously called the EU leaders to stand in full solidarity with the Greek Cypriot administration on the row over drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and Ankara has the right to hydrocarbon drilling as well.
Turkey’s Fatih drillship launched offshore operations on May 3 in an area of 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island.
Last week, Turkey sent a second drilling vessel, Yavuz, to east Mediterranean Sea that will begin hydrocarbon explorations off the coast of the Cyprus Island in early July.
In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure.