ERDOGAN WON’T GIVE UP RUSSIAN MISSILES
▶ Turkish leader insists he wants ties with Washington and Moscow
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday ruled out giving up a Russian missile system to improve relations with the US.
During a visit to the White House, Mr Erdogan cited Turkey’s reliance on Russian gas supplies and income from its tourists as he ruled out scrapping the purchase of the S-400 missile defence system, saying his country wants to be friends with Moscow and Washington.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Mr Erdogan to step back from buying the S-400 system, but was rebuffed.
“We can’t ruin our relations with Russia,” Mr Erdogan said.
“There is a strategic relationship over the natural gas. Do we have a chance to ignore the Turkish Stream gas project?
“They say, ‘you are right but roll tractors over the S-400s’. We said it is not possible to do such a thing.”
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads about Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian missile system, which the US says is incompatible with Nato defences. The US expelled Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet programme over Ankara’s purchase of the system, parts of which began arriving in Turkey in July.
But the Trump administration has so far stopped short of imposing sanctions, even though the US Congress voted for them.
“We can’t dump S-400s and go for Patriots,” Mr Erdogan said. “I want America and Russia to be my friends ... the way to overcome differences of views is to remain in a healthy dialogue based on correct information.
“We will continue our work in this without interruption.”
Republican legislators also pushed Mr Erdogan on his choice of missile system.
Texas senator Ted Cruz told the Turkish president that US legislators had two main concerns.
One is the defence system that Turkey bought from Moscow and the second is stopping Ankara from going after the Kurds.
Rick Scott, a senator from Florida, said he wanted to see Turkey move closer to the US and not Russia.
Mr Trump described a meeting between the two leaders on Thursday as wonderful, but both fell short of explaining in concrete terms how they would overcome the mounting differences they have on numerous issues.
Dozens of Kurds and their supporters waved Kurdish and American flags outside the White House to protest against Mr Trump’s meeting with the Turkish leader.
Protesters gathered across the street from the White House, and chanted slogans demanding that Turkey-backed forces withdraw from northern Syria.
Turkey launched an offensive in Syria early last month to battle Kurdish forces allied with the US in the fight against ISIS militants.
Mr Erdogan sees Kurdish forces in Syria as an extension of a separatist group that has been fighting inside Turkey since the 1980s.
US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in the East Room of the White House