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Erdoğan labels expected US sanctions on Turkey ‘disrespectful’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that it would be a sign of “disrespect” if the U.S. ended up imposing sanctions to Turkey. Erdoğan’s comments came after several U.S. media outlets reported that the Trump administration is set to roll out sanctions against Turkey as early as Dec. 11 over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that U.S. sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of Russian defence systems was “disrespectful” to an important ally in NATO. 

“The US move to make Turkey confront an act called CAATSA [Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act] is a disrespect against a very important partner in NATO,” Erdoğan said, in remarks made to reporters on his way back from Azerbaijan. 

The Turkish president also said that Ankara will be patient and see what trend emerges after the new U.S. administration takes office next month. “After the U.S. transfer of power we will no doubt see the trend much more clearly,” Erdoğan said of the coming Joe Biden presidency. “So it is for us to be patient and see.”

In a later speech to officials from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan took a more conciliatory tone, calling on both U.S. and EU politicians to “break from the influence of anti-Turkey lobbies.”

“There are no issues that we cannot solve with dialogue and cooperation,” he said.

Erdoğan’s comments came after several U.S. media outlets reported that the Trump administration is set to roll out sanctions against Turkey as early as Dec. 11 over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defense systems. 

The long-anticipated step is likely to infuriate Ankara and weigh on Turkey’s relations with the incoming administration of President-elect Biden. 

The sanctions would target Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries and its head, İsmail Demir, five sources including three U.S. officials told Reuters on Dec. 10. They would be damaging but narrower than the severe scenarios some analysts have outlined.

Two sources familiar with the matter, including a U.S. official speaking on the condition of anonymity, said President Donald Trump had given aides the blessing for the sanctions.

The Turkish lira weakened as much as 1.4 percent following the news. U.S. sanctions could harm a Turkish economy struggling with a coronavirus-induced slowdown, double-digit inflation and badly depleted foreign reserves.

A senior Turkish official said sanctions would backfire and hurt ties between the two NATO members.

“Sanctions would not achieve a result but be counter-productive. They would harm relations,” the official said. “Turkey is in favor of solving these problems with diplomacy and negotiations. We won’t accept one-sided impositions,” he said.

The decision will have repercussions far beyond Turkey, sending a message to U.S. partners around the world that might consider buying Russian military equipment and have been warned repeatedly about U.S. sanctions.

Erdoğan had hoped to prove U.S. threats hollow, betting the relationship he developed with Trump would insulate Ankara from punitive U.S. action.

Having forged a working relationship with Erdoğan, Trump long opposed U.S. sanctions against Turkey despite the advice of advisers. Officials in his administration internally recommended sanctions against Ankara in July 2019, when the Turkish government started taking delivery of the S-400s, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

But sanctions appeared likely even if Trump did not act, the sources said.

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