Ankara may reconsider the status of İncirlik airbase if the United States Congress imposes sanctions on Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, as he commented on the rift between two NATO allies over F-35 fighter jets and S-400 missile defense systems.
“Both İncirlik and Kürecik [radar base] may come to our agenda. We don’t want to talk about the bad scenario over assumptions,” Çavuşoğlu told broadcaster A Haber on Dec. 11 upon a question regarding Turkey’s possible moves against Washington in case sanctions are adopted.
“The decision of the congress is not enough. What matters is the administration’s decision,” he also said.
U.S. lawmakers will vote – and likely pass – a defense bill later on Dec. 11 that calls for sanctions against Turkey over Ankara’s decision to procure the S-400 defenses.
Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over the former’s purchase of S-400 systems from Russia, with the latter saying that they are not compatible with NATO defenses and threatens the F-35s.
The U.S. Congress has been pushing U.S. President Donald Trump to implement sanctions on Ankara.
Saying that Ankara is aware of the negative atmosphere in the U.S. Congress against Turkey, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Turkey is a partner of the F-35 program and the jets are not connected to S-400s.
“There are 12 articles in the CAATSA [Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act]. Which one will the administration pick? If a decision against Turkey is adopted, what’s the authority of Trump administration in implementing them?” he said.
“If we are to think about the worse case scenario, we will evaluate our people’s demands and make a decision. All alternatives can be evaluated,” Çavuşoğlu added.
The minister also said that Turkey had a constructive approach towards the U.S. on the issues of F-35s and S-400s, adding that the Congress needs to understand that they can’t achieve anything through imposition.
During the interview, the minister noted that Turkey doesn’t let others interfere in its sovereign rights, adding that the U.S. has been trying to keep the country under pressure.
“We see that they are disappointed due to our Operation Peace Spring because they couldn’t reach their aims,” he said, referring to Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria launched against the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
While the rift over Ankara’s purchase of S-400s has been ongoing, another source of tension between the two NATO allies is Washington’s support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Turkey perceives the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an organization designated as a terrorist one by Ankara, the U.S. and the European Union.
Turkey, Britain agreed to speed up fighter jet project
Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was open to alternatives to buying the F-35 jets, including from Russia. He said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had discussed speeding up work on the TF-X joint fighter jet project to meet Turkey’s defense needs.
“We bought the S-400s because the most suitable offer on air defense systems came from Russia. Until we produce it ourselves, the alternative to the F-35 could be the Russian market, but we are open to other alternatives too,” he said.
Turkey and Britain agreed a 100 million pound ($133 million) deal in 2017 to develop Turkish fighter jets and Turkey’s Kale Group said it was setting up a joint venture with Rolls-Royce to work on the project. In March Rolls-Royce said it had scaled back efforts to join the programme.
A Turkish source said the disagreement with Rolls-Royce stemmed from licensing issues, which are “critical and indispensable” for Turkey. But the source said talks had been revived and added Turkey expected the project to advance after a solution was reached.
‘Any activity in Turkish continental shelf needs permit‘
Çavuşoğlu also said that Turkey will not allow any activities within its continental shelf without permission granted.
“Within our continental shelf, no one can conduct activity without our permission, if it happens, we will prevent it,” he said.
On Nov. 27, Turkey and Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) seated in Tripoli signed a bilateral memorandum.
The memorandum asserts Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area.