I had the privilege to accompany Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on his most recent visit to Greece, and the chance to interview him over breakfast in Athens.
Although this interview took place in Greece, we did not limit ourselves to Athens-centric concerns, and I proceeded to ask him questions about a slew of issues that cover the scope of Turkey's foreign policy.
Also, in addition to the minister of foreign affairs, Deputy Minister Sedat Önal, who has been negotiating critical issues on Turkey’s behalf recently, was also present and we had the opportunity to listen to his input as well.
For example, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who made the first high-level visit to Ankara after the new administration came to power, met with Deputy Minister Önal, and both the content and atmosphere of this meeting were significant in terms of determining the "spirit" of relations in the new term.
In a statement made public after she landed in Turkey, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State said, “Turkey should give up the S-400s. This is not a technical issue.”
Naturally, questions were abound afterwards about whether such a statement points to a new U.S. approach toward Turkey.
Referring to the meeting he had with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Önal said, "We covered all the issues on our agenda," and pointed that there was no new request from the U.S. regarding the S-400 missiles.
When I asked whether “new sanctions are on the table,” I got a clear answer: “No.”
When it comes to the latest on the S-400 crisis, I’ll relay what Turkey’s foreign minister said regarding this issue, referring to the meeting he had with his U.S. counterpart Blinken some time ago in Brussels:
“We already communicated our proposals in Brussels on how to deal with certain issues, including the S-400 crisis with the U.S.; we have submitted a non-paper.”
As you know, in response to the objections from the U.S. side on this issue that the S-400 system is compromising the F-35 aircraft, Turkey said that if there are such concerns, let's form a technical commission; this commission will discuss them and Turkey will be ready to do what is necessary.
However, the American side never gave a positive response to Ankara's offer, due to the fact that the claim they put forth is riddled with holes and would not stand to scrutiny.
This stalemate must have not escaped Ankara’s notice, as Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu spoke of a new proposal they conveyed to their U.S. counterparts.
Well, what is this new suggestion?
Let me relay what the minister said:
“Our proposal to form a technical-level working group with NATO was not accepted by the previous administration and the current one. We know the reason for this. Because they themselves know that these allegations are not true. (The S-400 system will not compromise the F-35s, etc.) Since they did not see eye to eye on the technical side of things, we decided to find a political solution.”
What do we take away from all of the above?
My personal take is the following:
It seems unlikely that the U.S. will adopt more sanctions unless a new pretext emerges.
There had been signs pointing in that direction previously.
During their most recent visit, it is my understanding that the American side revealed the views that have been an open secret for a very long time now.
Ankara, on the other hand, is not willing to back down on the S-400s it had purchased, but simultaneously does not want to dismiss the possibility of new offers (in terms of purchasing Patriots) from the Washington administration.
As things stand, it seems that the S-400 issue will remain on predictable ground, unless we encounter new surprises down the road.
Çavuşoğlu: Normalization with Israel depends on whether Tel Aviv alters course
Over the course of our breakfast in Athens, I posed another question to Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu on the reports circulating about the end of the Netanyahu government, and whether that would lead to a normalization in relations with Israel. Çavuşoğlu pointed that Turkey’s main point of contention with Israel is the status of Jerusalem, its attacks on Palestinians and illegal settlements. He then proceeded to say the following:
“In the past we sat down and talked, but then Israel would launch an attack and this process would end again. In order to achieve healthy normalization, Israel must abandon this approach. It matters very little whether it’s Netanyahu or someone else at the helm.”
As we proceeded to discuss this matter in the form of a Q&A, Deputy Minister Sedat Önal weighed in and addressed the criticism leveled at Turkey’s approach to the Palestinian issue.
Let me relay what he said:
“Pressure from public opinion impacts policy when it comes to getting the international community to act. This pressure forced countries to not turn a blind eye to their positions. The New York Times published photos of the children who were killed in Gaza in the aftermath of Israeli attacks. Our initiative had a very serious impact on all these matters.”