The Turkish president on Friday stressed the importance of NATO for the security of Europe amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.
"NATO is the cornerstone of European security. We have seen this very clearly. Turkiye is an indispensable ally for ensuring regional security," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during his return flight from Brussels where he attended an extraordinary NATO summit on Thursday.
“Turkiye will continue to play an important role in shaping NATO's future through these summits,” said Erdogan.
Highlighting Turkiye’s mediation efforts, he said: “Turkiye made great efforts from the beginning to end the ongoing war in Ukraine.”
Underlining that the NATO summit was “fruitful and successful” in every respect, the president said Turkiye welcomed NATO leaders' decision to extend the mandate of alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg for another year because of Russia's war on Ukraine.
An extraordinary meeting of NATO heads of state and government was held on Thursday in Brussels to discuss the alliance’s response to Russia's war on Ukraine.
NATO's long-term stance in Eastern Europe was evaluated at the meeting as well as a response to Russia's war on Ukraine, which entered its second month on Thursday.
On the French president's “NATO is brain dead” comments, Erdogan said: “That was an unfortunate statement. President [Emanuel] Macron is one of the most active leaders in NATO.”
He said he will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday, and may hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend or early next week to assess the results of Thursday’s NATO summit.
“Amid war, many big companies are leaving Russia, and Turkiye's doors are wide open,” said Erdogan.
Dispelling concerns over food shortages due to the war, he said: "We’re taking all kinds of measures for food security. There will be no problems with food access during the holy month of Ramadan."
Russia began its war on Feb. 24. It has been met with international outrage, with the EU, US, and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.
At least 1,035 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,650 injured, according to UN estimates, while cautioning that the true figure is likely far higher.
More than 3.6 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighboring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.
Talks with US on F-16 jets
On talks with the US about F-16 jets, he said the US is showing a positive approach on aircraft modernization and purchases of new fighter jets.
Erdogan said US President Joe Biden told him that he will present his positive approach to the Congress on F-16 fighter jets and will follow the issue.
The Turkish president also reiterated Turkiye's stance on the S-400 air defense systems.
He also criticized the American newspaper Wall Street Journal article that suggested Turkiye send the S-400 air defense system to Ukraine and said: “Communications Director Fahrettin Altun gave the necessary answer with all sensitivity.”
Altun urged the West and the US on Wednesday to deliver F-35 fighter jets and Patriot batteries to Ankara "without preconditions," saying informal proposals would not repair relations.
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Altun cited an article published last week that suggested the use of Turkiye-owned S-400 missile systems in Ukraine against Russia, which it said would lead to a betterment of the relationship between Washington and Ankara.
“This idea is quite unrealistic,” Altun responded to the article, saying: "What the West must do is deliver the F-35 fighter jets and Patriot batteries to Turkiye without preconditions."
Altun underlined that all US accounts of Turkiye’s decision to purchase the S-400 from Russia appear to omit that Ankara had first approached the US for the procurement of the Patriot system. “The U.S., however, refused to sell the Patriot system,” he noted.
On bilateral relations with Israel, Erdogan said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett may visit Turkiye, a visit that may pave the way for a new process in bilateral relations.
Cooperation over natural gas may emerge as a key step in developing bilateral ties with Israel, the Turkish president added.
Earlier this month, Israeli President Isaac Herzog paid a historic visit to Turkiye.
Herzog's visit, the first by an Israeli head of state in 14 years, is seen as a step towards improved relations with Turkiye.