US President Donald Trump (left) talks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they arrive for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, on July 11, 2018. Photo: Tatyana Zenkovich | AFP
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Russia used to compete with the United States to control the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units in northern Syria but it has now understood that group is a “real terrorist organization,” Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Now Russia understood that this is really a terrorist organization, so they cannot control and they do not deal with YPG/PKK,” he told reporters after arriving in Brussels to attend NATO’s summit, co-referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has clashed with Turkish forces for over 40 years in Turkey and the Syrian YPG, which deny organic links.
Regarding the purchase of S-400 system from Russia, Cavusoglu said that the first batteries will arrive in Turkey by the end of 2019.
He also said that the purchase is for their “urgent need,” asking “Who is going to meet that? Now NATO is able to cover only 30 percent of my air space. Who is going to protect my nation, my people from the missiles coming from the [Syrian] regime or from any other country?”
He suggested for NATO to have bases in Iraq and Libya to train local security forces because: “solidarity is important but without double-standard. Some of the NATO allies, for instance, support or are working together with some of the terrorist organizations,” referring to the US-led international anti-ISIS which have a presence in YPG-controlled areas of Syria.
Ahead of the summit, US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told CNBC that they are “worried” about the Turkey’s close relations with Russia “but we want Turkey to be a democracy, to stay as a rule of law country and we are concerned about some of the things we see."
She added that “we are very worried about this S-400, that Turkey says they going to buy from Russia. That would be a terrible blow..."
Hutchison said that Turkey ought to "[buy] a Patriot missile defence, but others as well, and that was a joke, but there are other missile defence systems that could work just as well that would be interoperable with NATO."
The large Turkish delegation met with US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron. It was Erdogan’s first meeting with the two since his electoral success and the shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system of governance.
Trump and Erdogan took a family photo and chatted, although the details of their talks weren’t released. The NATO summit will continue on Thursday in Brussels, where a high-level meeting of the anti-ISIS coalition will also take place.