Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has commented on Ankara's crisis with Washington over the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, saying “reasonable solutions” are always on the table.
“We are acting in an explicit and transparent way during the talks [with the U.S.]. It is always possible to find reasonable and sensible solutions. Turkey's contribution to NATO and NATO's cooperation with Turkey are much deeper and comprehensive than F-35s, S-400s,” Akar said during an opening ceremony in Istanbul on June 11.
“This has been also explicitly stated by NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg. To conclude, a NATO that embodies Turkey is more meaningful and powerful, and will advance towards the future with firmer steps,” he said.
The Turkish minister's comments came a day after he held a phone talk with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin.
During the conversation, Akar and Austin had "a positive exchange of views on regional matters and bilateral defense and security issues before the upcoming NATO Summit,” according to a statement released on the Turkish Defense Ministry's Twitter account.
Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin had a telephone call on June 10. During the call, they had a positive exchange of views on regional and bilateral defence and security issues before the upcoming NATO Summit. https://t.co/BQyYeh6VLx— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) June 10, 2021
A similar statement was also issued by the Pentagon, which said: “The Secretary reaffirmed the longstanding U.S.-Turkey defense relationship and said he looked forward to seeing the Minister at the June 14 NATO Summit in Brussels.”
A top-level meeting of NATO member states will be held on June 14 in Brussels, Belgium.
In December, Washington imposed sanctions on Ankara for acquiring the S-400s on grounds they threaten its F-35 fighter jets and are incompatible with shared NATO defenses. Turkey rejects this and says the systems will stand independently from NATO defenses.
Since Joe Biden was elected U.S. president, Ankara has said it wants better ties and again proposed an S-400 joint working group. But Washington has repeatedly rejected that and says sanctions will remain until Turkey no longer possesses the missiles.
The United States has also removed Turkey from its F-35 jet program, where Ankara was manufacturer and buyer, over the S-400s in mid-2019.
Turkey has said its purchase of the S-400s was a necessity, as it had no suitable alternatives from NATO allies.
The allies are odds over several issues, from the S-400s to Turkey’s extradition request for a cleric it blames for a 2016 failed coup attempt, Syria policy, and an Iran sanctions-busting case against the Turkish state lender Halkbank.