Published: Thu, November 14, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Ahead of meeting with Trump, Erdogan threatened to buy Russian jets

Ahead of meeting with Trump, Erdogan threatened to buy Russian jets

"You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which at the moment holds so many IS members in prison and at the same time controls those in Syria", Erdogan told reporters. The incident gave Washington policymakers a sour taste of repression against Erdogan's domestic critics and signaled the strong-arm tactics Turkey is willing to employ overseas.

But such letters are unlikely to have any impact on President Trump who said in a recent tweet that he had "a very good (telephone) call with President Erdogan" on Nov 6 and was "looking forward to seeing him" at the White House on Wednesday. Turkey received delivery of the Russian weapons system this year, despite stern USA warnings against such a move.

Turkey launched its offensive into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia last month, following President Donald Trump's decision to move United States troops out of the way.

Erdogan and Trump had a hard agenda for their talks: Turkey's decision to buy a Russian air defense system despite Turkey's membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its incursion into neighboring Syria to attack Kurdish forces that have fought with the USA against the Islamic State group.

The S-400 purchase and cross-border military operation against the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dramatically shifted opinion in Congress and the Washington policy community against Turkey, leaving Erdogan to rely on a personal relationship with an unpredictable Trump.

Washington has repeatedly tried to pressure Ankara to cancel the S-400 contract with Moscow, even threatening sanctions, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

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President Erdogan slammed as "unacceptable" recent remarks on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by French leader Emmanuel Macron, who claimed the alliance was experiencing "brain death" and criticised Turkey's anti-terror Operation in northern Syria. "Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand (Syria)", he said at a White House news briefing. "There's no place in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the S-400".

While the man stood in the buffer zone, Mr Erdoğan took the opportunity to warn that he would continue to release the estimated 1,200 suspected foreign jihadists they are holding in their custody.

But several European countries have resisted Turkey's efforts to send Daesh/ISIS members back to their countries.

Ankara says it has captured 287 militants in northeast Syria and already holds hundreds more Islamic State suspects.

Differences between the two sides extend well beyond Syria and the S-400. Despite the letter, Trump's withdrawal of the USA soldiers effectively gave Turkey a green light.

The US and fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations say the S-400 would aid Russian intelligence and compromise a US-led fighter jet program. Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist group. Erdogan also faces damaging allegations of corruption within his inner circle emerging from a USA court case opened last month against state-run bank Halkbank over an Iran sanctions busting scheme. "As of last night, they have confirmed that they will take back terrorists from Daesh (Islamic State) who are citizens of their countries and their wives, children and all the others", he said. "We think we can bring trade up very quickly to about $100 billion between our countries". Separately, the United States government is furious at Erdogan for agreeing to buy the Russian S-400 missile system - a no-no for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member. Just before warmly welcoming Erdogan to the White House, Trump tweeted that the House Democrats were "trying to stop me, because I'm fighting for you".

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