US NATO PRESSURE ON TURKEY OVER S-400 AND IRAN RUSSIA LINKS




Robert Harneis-TDO- (FRANCE) Turkey will face sanctions over its deal to buy the Russian S-400 air defence system, according to media reports. The report comes as U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Tina Kaidanow, who heads the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the State Department, was in Ankara to attend the 5th gathering of Turkey - U.S. Defence Trade Dialogue, following a 2-year hiatus

Top of the agenda was an offer to sell Turkey the Patriot missile system as an alternative to the S-400. Previous negotiations over Patriots have stalled over issues such as the price and technology transfer. However, since the Turkish deal to buy S-400s, the U.S. Congress has adopted laws that could see Turkey facing sanctions over the deal. Russia has meanwhile accelerated efforts to deliver S-400s to Turkey.

In discussing the Ankara talks, it is claimed that a U.S. official struck a positive message over sales of F-35 fighter jets and other military equipment, but called for the abandonment of the S-400 deal, stressing that it was contrary to commitments made by Turkey at a NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016. The official also said that any potential Turkish purchase of Patriot missiles could not go though so long as the S-400 deal remained standing, saying, "We understand the desire to strengthen Turkey's air defence. But in doing so, all NATO nations need to use equipment compatible with NATO systems. A Russian system will not provide this standard,” adding, “We have stressed our concerns over the many interviews we have done with Turkish government officials.”

It is more likely that the real concern is that with its own S-400 system the Turkish government will be able to decide who it will be used against without interference by NATO.

At the same time the presidents of Turkey and Iran on Tuesday vowed to press on with their alliance alongside Russia over Syria, the Turkish presidency said, despite Ankara backing strikes by the US and its allies against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and Iran are the key allies of Assad and their military intervention in Syria is widely seen as helping him stay in power and tipping the balance in the civil war.

But Moscow and Tehran have over the last months worked increasingly closely with Ankara, which has throughout the seven-year war called for Assad´s ouster, in seeking to find a solution to the conflict.

In an interview with French television, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the weekend air strikes against Syrian government targets had succeeded in engineering a split in the Russia-Turkey alliance.

But a Turkish presidential source said, following telephone talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, that the two sides had vowed the alliance must continue.

"The two leaders emphasised the importance of continuing the joint efforts of Turkey, Iran and Russia... to protect Syrian territorial integrity and find a lasting, peaceful solution to the crisis," said the source.

Erdogan on Saturday had welcomed the air strikes -- carried out by the US, Britain and France -- which he described as "appropriate" following an alleged chemical attack that the West blames on Assad but Moscow contends was staged.

In his talks with Rouhani, Erdogan said that Turkey´s opposition to the use of chemical weapons was "more than clear" and warned against opening the way to an "escalation of tensions".

Ankara has been a NATO member since 1952 and its allies have become wary of the flourishing friendship between Ankara and Moscow.

Earlier this month, Erdogan hosted a summit on Syria with Iran and Russia in Ankara, the second such meeting after trilateral talks in November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Another such summit is planned in Tehran at a date yet to be confirmed.

The new entente with Iran is important for Turkey because it allows easier transport links by road and air to its newly expanded military base in Qatar.