ER­DO­GAN WON’T GIVE UP RUS­SIAN MIS­SILES

▶ Turk­ish leader in­sists he wants ties with Washington and Moscow

The National - News - - NEWS - TAY­LOR HEY­MAN

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

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