U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call on Saturday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Ankara’s security concerns along the Syrian border and its disappointment over Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 system.
The call between the officials arrives amid soaring tensions between the NATO allies.
Washington on Wednesday expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme over Ankara’s procurement of the Russian S-400 missile system. U.S. Officials maintain that the S-400 poses a threat to U.S. military systems, particularly the F-35 stealth fighter jet, and have repeatedly warned of sanctions if Turkey installs the Russian system.
“Pompeo reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to addressing Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border, while also reiterating the U.S. Government’s obligation to ensure the protection of local partners working with the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,’’ U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Ankara has long criticised Washington for ignoring an ally’s national security concerns by providing equipment to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Ankara designates the YPG a terrorist organisation and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over three decades. Washington and Ankara have been negotiating the establishment of a safe zone in northeast Syria along the Turkish border for months with no concrete progress.
Pompeo also conveyed Washington’s disappointment over Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, Ortagus added.
Despite U.S. and NATO officials’ objections, Ankara maintains that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would therefore not pose a threat to the alliance.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has called Washington’s move to remove Turkey from the F-35 programme a “mistake” that will “cause irreparable wounds” in strategic relations.