Despite an apparent divide between the two NATO allies on the role of Kurdish militias fighting jihadists in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sounded confident that Washington would side withAnkara over any wrongdoing by Russia – including any possible controversy over Kurdish fighters in Turkey’s neighbor.
“I don’t believe that the U.S. and Russia could be entirely on the same line concerning an issue involving Turkey,” Erdoğan said, when reminded that both Russia and the U.S. stated they would support the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria in its fight against jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Above all, Turkey is an ally of the U.S. and a member of NATO. So can you imagine that these two states [the U.S. and Russia] would be on the same line in any wrongdoing against Turkey? It’s not possible,” he said late on Oct. 6, speaking to journalists en route from Brussels to Tokyo.
Both Erdoğan and Turkish officials have recently been insisting that the PYD’s role supporting the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL does not give the group legitimacy, after a U.S. official said Washington does not consider the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD, a terrorist organization.Ankara continues to stress that the PYD is a terrorist organization because of its close links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has escalated attacks against Turkish security forces since July.
“Everybody should know that the PYD and the PKK have nested [together]. Russia says ‘If Iraq invites us, we can also launch air strikes against Daesh there.’ But Russia isn’t even hitting Daesh in Syria,” Erdoğan said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
He also argued that it was clear Russia’s primary goal was to establish a base in Latakia.
Russian aircraft twice entered Turkish air space over the weekend and Turkey says an unidentified MIG-29 harassed its jets on Oct. 5, prompting the Foreign Ministry to summon the Russian ambassador three times in protest.
Russia’s explanations about its violations of Turkish airspace do not reflect “seriousness,” Erdoğan said.
“Of course, we have been hurt by what happened. There is no sense in calling under these conditions,” he added, when asked whether he planned to call Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Turkish president cautioned that Moscow should carefully consider the impact of its moves on bilateral relations with Ankara, a significant trade partner.
“If the Russians do not build Mersin Akkuyu then somebody else will come and build it,” he added, referring to a nuclear power plant to be built by Russia in Akkuyu, Mersin province, in line with an intergovernmental agreement between Moscow and Ankara.
Erdoğan recalled that Russia had so far spent a total of $3 billion on the Akkuyu nuclear plant.
“So it is Russia that should be sensitive on these issues. We are the number one consumer of Russia’s natural gas. Losing Turkey would be a serious loss for Russia. If needed, Turkey can supply its natural gas from very different places,” he added.