Turkish-US negotiations on F-16 deal 'going well': Foreign minister

Türkiye  |
Editor : Gülcan Ayboğan
2022-07-27 20:30:26

Negative atmosphere seen in Congress in years past has dissipated, says Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu

Turkish-US negotiations on F-16 deal 'going well': Foreign minister

Despite challenges in ties, Türkiye’s top diplomat on Wednesday said that negotiations are "going well" with the US on an F-16 fighter jet deal.

"The F-16 negotiations are going well. The (US) administration's approach on negotiations is very positive," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.

After its unfair suspension from the F-35 program, Türkiye has sought to broker a deal with the US for the sales of F-16s and upgrade kits for earlier models of the fighter jet.

To help address existing issues between the two countries such as US support for the terrorist group YPG/PKK, sanctions, and the extradition of the ringleader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind a 2016 defeated coup, Cavusoglu said that a "strategic mechanism" has been established and that the first meeting at the ministerial level was already held in New York.

Cavusoglu also stressed that the "negative atmosphere" seen at the US Congress in recent years has dissipated.

An approximately $6-billion deal would include the sale of 40 newly built F-16V fighter jets and modernization kits for 80 F-16 C/D models that the Turkish Air Forces has in its inventory.

In early May, reports appeared on some US news outlets claiming that several lawmakers favor the deal.

Türkiye paid $1.4 billion for the fighter jets, but Washington took Ankara out of the program in 2019 because Türkiye purchased the Russian S-400 defense system after its efforts to acquire US Patriot missiles were rebuffed.

The US claimed the Russian system was a security risk, but Türkiye maintained that the S-400 would pose no threat to NATO or its armaments because it would not be integrated into the alliance's systems.

Ankara also repeatedly proposed setting up a commission to resolve the matter.

"This (bilateral) cooperation also has strategic importance for NATO," he said, as both countries have been alliance members for many decades.

"They are also aware of the role Türkiye has taken on recently, and let's hope this awareness is not a temporary one," Cavusoglu added, likely referring to Türkiye's key role in brokering a recent deal on Ukrainian grain shipments.

'US insincere about counter-terrorism'

Asked about a possible new operation against terror groups in northern Syria, Cavusoglu said preparations are continuing and that "a sudden move would come," echoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's warning that such an operation will come unexpectedly.

Reminding that the US and Russia the US and Russia failed to keep their promises against terrorist organizations in Syria, Cavusoglu said they are not sincere in their fight against terrorism.

In 2019, Russia expressed its commitment to remove the PKK/YPG terrorist organization from the Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas in northwestern Syria after reaching an agreement with Türkiye during Ankara's Operation Peace Spring.

Moscow had also promised that the terrorists would be removed from areas up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the Turkish border until the M4 road and in the area adjacent to the Operation Peace Spring zone.

Likewise, the US' then-Vice President Mike Pence had also pledged to Türkiye that the PKK/YPG terror group would withdraw from the Operation Peace Spring zone.

But neither Moscow nor Washington kept their promises.

Responding to a question on the US Central Command openly voicing sympathy for PKK/YPG terrorists, Cavusoglu said it is unacceptable and added that "It is an indication of the insincerity of the US in the fight against terrorism. Terrorist is terrorist."

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Sunday praised three PKK/YPG terrorists that were killed in northern Syria on Friday. CENTCOM also extended condolences to the terrorists' families.

Türkiye has long criticized US support for the terrorist YPG/PKK. While the US claims it fights Daesh/ISIS terrorists with the help of its YPG/PKK allies, Türkiye says using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is PKK's Syrian offshoot.

Regarding the grains corridor issue, Cavusoglu recalled the opening of a new joint coordination center today in Istanbul.

"Both the Russian and the Ukrainian parties sent their delegations to Istanbul, and together with this center, the control of the ships and flow will be done from here, via Türkiye," he added.

Emphasizing that maintaining the process of this control center is beneficial to all sides, Cavusoglu stressed that it becomes more difficult for parties to come to the negotiation table with the war raging.

Turkish minister further pledged that Türkiye will continue to play an active role in efforts to put an end to the war, and said his country is "a brand" in mediation efforts.

"This is not the case for every country. We act fairly and display the impartial, objective, balanced and principled attitude," he added.

'Athens has no say on the issue of human rights'

Regarding relations with Greece, he complained that Athens acts contrary to international law and violates basic human rights.

Due to its flouting of the rights of Greece's Turkish Muslim minority, it has no say on the issue of human rights, he said.

Cavusoglu also stressed that Greece hosts terror suspects and said terror groups such as FETO, PKK, and DHKP-C are active in Greek territories.

Turkish minister continued on by recalling Greece's push-backs at the Aegean Sea and noted that there are numerous examples of human rights violations by Greece.

Ankara and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable people, including women and children.

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