Economic ties should serve as the “main stabilizer” between the U.S. and Turkey, Turkey’s finance minister said Monday.
Addressing a gathering of business leaders in the U.S. capital, Berat Albayrak said financial ties between the countries must “be just as robust as our traditional security partnership”.
“They should play a more active role in determining the future of the relationship between the two countries. I realize this is easier said than done. But I want to assure all of you that this is our vision,” Albayrak said, acknowledging that the “historical depth and institutional strength of the security alliance” has been the “linchpin” in bilateral relations.
Albayrak noted existing strains in bilateral relations between the NATO allies but said they should not “prevent us from looking to the future with a positive outlook”.
“Let us avoid threats of sanctions and games of brinkmanship and work on creating a realistic yet positive agenda,” he said.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile system that Washington has said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the F-35 fifth-generation fighter jet program and which could trigger congressional sanctions.
The U.S. has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey’s receipt of the multi-million dollar jets.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
U.S. officials have advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing that the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, has emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and therefore would not pose a threat to the alliance.
“There is no change in Turkey’s commitment to NATO,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said earlier Monday at the American-Turkish Council’s annual conference.
Another area of concern for both sides is the plan for a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.
In December, U.S. President Donald Trump suddenly announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria. However, since then, Washington has backtracked and said in February a few hundred troops would remain for peacekeeping efforts and to create an international peacekeeping zone.
The U.S. has also mentioned that the safe zone would not include the YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK — a designated terrorist organization in the U.S. and Turkey.
“A possible safe zone should address Turkey’s national security concerns,” Akar said.