Erdoğan says US should leave Syria, optimistic about F-16 purchase

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The US should leave the areas in the east of the Euphrates River in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after his meetings with his counterparts from Russia and Iran.

“The US has to leave the east of the Euphrates … Because it’s America who nurtures the terrorist organizations there,” the president told reporters yesterday (July 20), on the way to Turkey following the tripartite summit in Tehran.

“Since America nurtures the terrorist organizations and we fight these terrorist organizations, from the moment [the US] withdraws from there, or if it doesn’t nurture those terrorist organizations, it will be easier for us.”

Touching on the summit, Erdoğan said, despite differing opinions among them, the three leaders “inevitably” united against the US presence in Syria and its support for the Kurdish groups, which he calls “terrorists.”

“Even though there are differences [of opinion] in some areas, there is unity in the fight against terrorism,”he said, adding that Russia and Iran should support Turkey in its efforts to fight “terrorist” groups.

“The thing that we have discussed since the beginning is that we want Russia and Iran to be with us in our fight against the terrorist organizations in the area up to 30 kilometers south from the border,” he remarked.

As long as Turkey’s national security concerns are not addressed, a new military offensive in northern Syria will be on the agenda, he added.

After Tuesday’s meeting, the presidents of Russia and Iran, Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi, also said the US presence in Syria should end but did not express support for Erdoğan’s intentions to launch a new incursion.

Rather, they stressed the importance of Syria’s territorial integrity and suggested that all the Syrian territory, including the regions held by Turkey-backed groups, should be returned to the Damascus government.

Since 2014, the US has developed a partnership with the Kurdish groups in Syria, which now lead the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls about 25 percent of Syria’s territory.

Over the past two months, Erdoğan has been saying that a new military offensive against the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) is imminent.

His critics doubt that his purpose may be to galvanize the voters before the elections, which are due to take place in June 2023. It is widely anticipated that the next election will be the toughest one faced by Erdoğan during his nearly two-decade rule.

Since 2016, Turkey has carried out four major military offensives in Syria, with two of them — the 2018 Afrin offensive and the 2019 “Operation Peace Spring” — being in Kurdish-controlled areas.

The purchase of F-16s

When asked about the US House legislation that binds the sale of the F-16 fighter jets to Turkey on the condition that it should not violate Greece’s airspace, Erdoğan said he doesn’t think it is “binding.”

“When we discussed these issues with Mr. [Joe] Biden, he did not impose a Greece condition or anything on us. On the contrary, we talked about protecting our rights as NATO member countries,” he said, referring to his meeting with the US president on June 29 at the NATO summit in Madrid.

“Unfortunately, there are those who oppose [Turkey’s F-16 purchase], even though they are few. Looking at the current developments, the condition issue, I think it is not a condition that binds us. As long as they say ‘yes’ to our proposal for the F-16s and give us brand new F-16s.”

Erdoğan further said Turkey can maintain the planes in its inventory but also has demands regarding spare parts, which were accepted by the US.

CLICK – Turkey, US continue F-16 negotiations despite US House legislation, says minister

Following Turkey’s complete exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet program in April 2021 because of its purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia, it made a request to the US to buy more F-16s.

While there had not been much development in the negotiations for months, Biden announced support for Turkey acquiring new jets after his meeting with Erdoğan at the NATO summit, in a move that faced opposition in the Congress.

The US House of Representatives on July 14 approved a legislation that would create hinder Biden’s plan to sell jets to Turkey.

It prohibits the sale or transfer of F-16s and modernization kits to Ankara unless the president certifies the transfer is in the US’s national interests, and guarantees to Congress that in the 120 days prior to the transfer the Turkish government has not “violated the sovereignty of Greece, including through territorial overflights.” (VK)


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