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Turkey eyes predictable ties with new US administration

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has underlined that the Turkish government wants “predictable” bilateral ties and a good dialogue with the new U.S. administration despite existing problems between the two allies, including Turkey’s purchase of the S-400systems from Russia and continued American support to the YPG in eastern Syria

“We want predictable ties with the U.S. in the new era. Resolving problems will make our ties healthier although we know that solving all these problems at once is not easy. But we should at least agree to disagree on these issues,” Çavuşoğlu told Ankara bureau chiefs at a year-end press conference in Ankara on Dec. 30.

The top three issues Çavuşoğlu listed were Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s from Russia, the U.S. support to the YPG in Syria and its refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen.

Formal relations with the new administration will be established following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the U.S. on Jan. 20, Çavuşoğlu informed, reiterating Ankara’s readiness to open a new chapter with Washington.

“We want to be in good dialogue and cooperation with the new administration in 2021. We hope they will also pursue the same understanding,” he said. The minister also informed that the two countries have agreed to carry out technical talks over the sanctions imposed by Washington on Ankara because of its purchase of S-400s air defense systems from Russia.

“I would ask what disturbs the U.S. on ties with Turkey apart from the S-400s? And they know why we had to buy these systems. But we are disturbed by the U.S. support to the YPG, a terror group. We are also disturbed by the fact that the leader of FETÖ is still there [in the U.S.],” Çavuşoğlu stated.

Turkey, EU talks to intensify

Turkey and the EU will intensify diplomatic contacts starting from January as part of the government’s will to normalize dialogue with Brussels, the foreign minister said. “We are ready to run our relations in a more positive climate. We expect the same readiness from the EU,” he said, repeating that Turkey is part of Europe.

After ups and downs in ties with Brussels in the past year, Turkey and EU are planning to accelerate visits and talks starting from January, the foreign minister informed. European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are expected to pay a visit to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Çavuşoğlu said, also informing that he will hold a separate meeting with the EU’s foreign and security high representative, Joseph Borrell, before the presidential summit between Ankara and Brussels. Çavuşoğlu will travel to Portugal in the first 10 days of January as Lisbon will resume EU term presidency on Jan. 1.

“How can we open a new page? Through dialogue. This must be sincere and goal-oriented. There are issues that we can negotiate and we cannot,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that organizing an international conference would help to resolve the existing problems stemming from the eastern Mediterranean.

On a question about the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on the immediate release of former co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, Çavuşoğlu said the ruling was inconsistent with previous decisions of the court on Demirtaş.

“We will explain this to the ECHR,” he said, accusing the European court of issuing political decisions on Turkey.

Normalization depends on Israel’s policies

On ties with Israel, Çavuşoğlu recalled that relations were severed with this country because of its attacks and policies against Palestinians, a red line for Turkey. “The normalization of ties with this country is everybody’s desire. But this can happen if Israel would take steps and would stop its aggression on Palestine,” he suggested. “Therefore, normalization depends on Israel,” he said, exchanging ambassadors without a clear change on Israel’s actions in the region would be futile and unrealistic.

Turkey wants to investigate Uighurs’ situation in China

On comments about Turkey’s position regarding Uighur Turks in China, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey has always raised its sensitivity about the situation of the Uighur Turks in its talks with the Chinese administration.

Turkey wants to send a delegation to the region and inspect claims about the Chinese government’s violations of human rights, the minister said. “We are not looking at this issue from a political perspective but as an issue of human rights,” he said.

On a question whether Turkey will ratify a 2017-dated extradition deal with China, Çavuşoğlu said it was a routine agreement and the ratification of the deal is up to the Turkish Parliament. “But comments that we will hand over Uighurs to China once the agreement will be ratified are wrong. The agreement is about the extradition of criminals and has a lot of criteria,” he said.

The extradition of a person solely on the basis of his or her political views is out of question, the minister stressed.

Concerns on Syria, Libya

Çavuşoğlu also provided information about his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Dec. 29 in Sochi. Recent developments in Syria and Libya were on the two ministers’ agenda, he said, underlining that he urged Lavrov over General Khalifa Haftar’s increasing anti-Turkey remarks lately.

Çavuşoğlu also stressed that the YPG’s activities in eastern Syria are a matter of concern for Turkey and recalled to Lavrov that this was against the Turkish-Russian memorandum of understanding brokered in late 2019.

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