TURKEY

Turkey will not allow questioning of NATO status: Kalın

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Turkey will not accept statements that question its status in NATO, the country's presidential spokesman said Tuesday, defending its multidimensional foreign policy.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ibrahim Kalın dismissed comments aimed at Turkey's membership in NATO amid a row with the U.S. over the purchase of a Russian missile defense system, asserting that Turkey will continue to take steps that will strengthen its position in the transatlantic alliance.

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 said will jeopardize Turkey's role in the F-35 fighter jet program and which could trigger congressional sanctions.

Additionally, earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Turkey's purchase of the S-400 system could potentially pose a risk to NATO.

"Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in the history of the world, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership?" Pence said.

Kalın said it is not possible for Turkey to accept such statements, adding it is not a single country that will determine the status of a country in NATO but all NATO member countries.

"Besides, we are not an observer [country] there. We are one of the members. We are a country that has a say in all decisions," he said. "Therefore, we will not allow the questioning of Turkey's position in NATO."

In his remarks, he reiterated that Turkey's relationship with Russia was not an alternative to that of the U.S. or Europe.

He noted that it is quite normal for Turkey to develop various relationships in different areas in its foreign policy.

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 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 would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Kalın also rejected sanctions threats from Washington through the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which was passed in 2017 against Iran, North Korea and Russia and combat their influence across the globe.

Announced in January 2017, Ankara's talks to purchase Russia's S-400 missile defense system came before CAATSA was signed into law in August 2017, Kalın said, and warned that threats would not work and would backfire.

"Turkey is not a country to establish relations with such threats. This [purchase] is a decision taken within the framework of Turkey's national sovereignty," he added.

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