TURKEY

Turkey, US must protect friendship: Turkish ambassador

Friendship was reiterated Tuesday by the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. to describe Ankara's current relationship with Washington.

Serdar Kılıç, who has served as ambassador to the U.S. since 2014, called on both nations to "defend, protect, and further strengthen" ties.

"We are friends and friendship needs care. We cannot take it lightly. Turkey needs United States. But I can assure you that United States also needs Turkey," Kılıç said at a conference on American-Turkish relations in Washington.

There are a number issues currently facing the countries' relationship including the U.S.'s support to the YPG/PKK terrorist group in northern Syria and the American response to Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the Russian system that Washington said will jeopardize Turkey's role in the F-35 fighter jet program and could trigger American congressional sanctions.

The U.S. has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey's receipt of the multi-million dollar fighter 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-400 from Moscow, arguing that the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.

Turkey, however, emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

"Public speeches about imposing sanctions on Turkey, limiting the transfer of F-35s or excluding from the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] program, in which Turkey is a founding partner and a co-producer, not a customer by the way, is simply counterproductive," said Kılıç.

"Turkey is ready to proceed with the purchase of Patriot missiles ... if we can reach a satisfactory deal in the ongoing negotiations," he added and warned threatening language used by Congress will not help.

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