Turkey does not expect ties with the United States to be strained under President-elect Joe Biden and does not anticipate sanctions over its purchase of Russia S-400 defense systems, a senior official in President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party revealed.
Relations have been tense between Ankara and Washington over issues from policy toward Syria to the US refusal to extradite a cleric Turkey blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
Turkey has relied on the good personal ties between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump to smooth over divisions, but Biden is expected to be tougher on Turkey over foreign and defense policies and Ankara’s human rights record, Reuters reported.
Ankara’s purchase last year of the S-400s, which are not compatible with NATO defenses, raised the prospect of US sanctions early next year if Congress approves a defense spending bill which the House of Representatives has already voted to include language requiring the president to sanction Turkey.
However, in an interview with Reuters, AK Party Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmus played down that prospect.
“The US President will most likely watch the balance in the Middle East very carefully for US interests, and will not want to continue the tense ties with Turkey,” Kurtulmus said.
“...I believe they will take positive steps in the future.”
Washington said the S-400s pose a threat to the capabilities of its F-35 stealth fighter jets and has removed Turkey from the jet program where it was a manufacturer and buyer.
For its part, Ankara said the S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and has called for a joint working group to discuss US concerns.
Kurtulmus stressed that Turkey would not bow to pressure to return the Russian systems, or leave them unused.