The US should either deliver the F-35 fighter jets that Turkey paid for or return the money, or give another product instead, the Turkish foreign minister said Thursday.
“If the US does not want to resolve the F-35 issue, or if the Congress blocks it, Turkey will consider other options including purchasing (Russian-made) SU-35 or SU-57,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk in a televised interview.
“We supply our needs from different sources until we produce our own aircraft,” said Cavusoglu, adding this is the most basic right of any independent and sovereign country.
Turkey and the US agreed to continue talks to resolve the issue over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
According to a statement, representatives of the Turkish and US defense ministries held a meeting in the capital Ankara, in which they also discussed financial issues.
In 2019, Washington announced that it was taking Turkey out of the F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
Turkey, however, stressed that the S-400s would not be integrated into NATO systems and pose no threat to the alliance or its armaments.
Ankara also repeatedly proposed setting up a commission to clarify the issue.
Responding to a question on Syria and increased terrorist acts in the country, Cavusoglu said that neither the US nor Russia kept the promise they made under the agreements reached after Turkey’s anti-terror push Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria for keeping PKK/YPG terrorists away from Turkish borders.
“PKK/YPG increased their attacks. Neither Russia nor the US fulfilled their promises. We have to do what is best for us,” he said.
Reiterating Turkey’s support for Syria’s territorial integrity, Cavusoglu said that PKK/YPG is a threat to everyone.
He said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had raised these issues in his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and that he would also discuss them in a meeting with US President Joe Biden expected to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, on the sidelines of the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP26).
We are currently working on a meeting with the US and the countries that agree on similar issues regarding Syria, or an international Syria support group, said Cavusoglu.
"There is a need for such a meeting now. We are telling this to Russia and Iran, ‘You saw it, tell the (Syrian) regime that military solution is not possible’,” he added.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
Kavala case, statements of 10 ambassadors
When asked about statements by 10 Western ambassadors regarding the ongoing case of Turkish businessman Osman Kavala, Cavusoglu said that they did not have the right to interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs and they certainly are not entitled to give directions to the Turkish judiciary.
“The statement made by the 10 ambassadors is unacceptable. People can express their views on many issues, the issues can be discussed at international platforms, but the duties and jurisdictions of diplomats are very clear on the Vienna Convention,” he said.
“Article 41 of the Vienna Convention tells diplomats that you cannot interfere in the internal affairs of the country in which you are assigned. Here, they made a statement with the understanding of instructing the country and the judiciary,” he added.
Ambassadors were summoned to the Foreign Ministry and they were told that they had crossed the line according to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, Cavusoglu said and detailed the process afterwards.
“We had made the preparations to declare them persona non grata upon the instruction of our president and we were going to present that to the Cabinet on Monday. After our president’s speech, the panic deepened even more, some of the envoys started to pack their suitcases, and then they took a step back,” he said.
Last week, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of the US, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, and France for meddling in the Turkish judiciary.
Erdogan on Saturday ordered these 10 ambassadors to be declared persona non grata over their statements on the Kavala case.
On Monday, the 10 embassies in Turkey announced that they abide by Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which calls on the envoys not to interfere in the internal affairs of the states they serve in.
Kavala faced charges over the 2013 Gezi Park protests, a small number of demonstrations in Istanbul that later transformed into nationwide protests which left eight protesters and a police officer dead. He was acquitted of all charges in February 2020, however, an appeal court overturned this verdict in January.
Kavala was also accused of involvement in the 2016 defeated coup orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in Turkey. He was remanded into custody on charges of spying in March.