On December 30th, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and the US created a joint working group in connection with Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.
As such, technical negotiations are reportedly underway.
“We have created a joint working group with the US on the S-400, we have already started technical negotiations”, Cavusoglu said at a press conference.
In the week ending on December 27th, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told the broadcaster NTV that Anakara expects the US to urgently revise its “mistaken” decision to slap sanctions over the purchase of S-400s.
Earlier in December, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries and its head, Ismail Demir, as well as on three other individuals related to the defense industry presidency.
Cavusoglu’s statement is a 180-degree turn from his previous statement on December 17th, that Ankara was preparing sanctions in response to the US.
Asked by broadcaster Kanal 24 whether Turkey would reverse its S-400 arrangement with Russia in light of the sanctions, Cavusoglu said, “If we were going to step back we would have done so before now.”
“We will surely take our steps in line with these,” Cavusoglu said, according to Reuters. “It’s not important whether the sanctions are soft or harsh, sanctions in themselves are wrong.”
“Looking at the content of the sanctions, these are not measures that will shake us to the core or impact us very much,” Cavusoglu said.
It should be reminded that Russia and Turkey signed a deal for a second S-400 missile defense system to be delivered to Ankara.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the military cooperation between his country and Turkey would not be deterred by the sanctions imposed by the United States on Ankara over its acquisition of a Russian missile defense system.
“Relations between Russia and Turkey are self-sustainable and self-sufficient, they don’t depend on someone’s aggressive and hostile actions and whims,” Lavrov said on December 29th.
“They [their relations] are based on the national interests of each of our countries and on our determination to continue mutual cooperation and mutual benefit by searching for a balance of interests.”
On December 29th, Cavusoglu visited Moscow for talks with his counterpart Lavrov, who told reporters that “we have confirmed our mutual intention to develop military ties with Turkey”.
He added that President Vladimir Putin appreciated Turkey’s determination to “continue cooperation in this area despite continuing illegitimate pressure from Washington”.
Cavusoglu said the US sanctions against Turkey were “an act of aggression against our country’s sovereign rights,” adding that Ankara would not give in to pressure.
“We prefer to solve all issues including that of the S-400 through negotiations,” Cavusoglu said. “After introducing the sanctions, the US announced it favours dialogue. We’ve never been against dialogue.”
According to Cavusoglu, him and Lavrov held six in-person meetings, 14 phone conversations and two videoconferences in 2020.
The two countries’ presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, had just one in-person meeting due to COVID-19 but talked on the phone 20 times in 2020, he said.
2021 will also mark important events as the two countries celebrate the centennial of the Ankara Agreement, one of the first deals the Turkish Parliament brokered during the Atatürk-led Independence War. Again next year, Erdoğan and Putin will co-chair the next Turkish-Russian High-Level Cooperation Council in Turkey with a joint commitment to further deepen bilateral ties.
The main pillars of the Turkish-Russian relationship are, without question, the economy, trade and energy. The trade volume is around $20 billion, although that’s mostly to the advantage of Russia. The two countries hope to increase the volume to $100 billion, but there was no improvement on this front in 2020 due to the pandemic. Turkey welcomed 7 million Russian tourists in 2019, but this figure dropped to just 2 million this year because of COVID-19.
In addition, since mid-2019, there have even been reports that Turkey is also interested in purchasing Russian SU-57 warplanes after it was expelled from the U.S.-led F-35 project, as well as a second batch of S-400s, but Ankara has yet to confirm the speculation.
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