In conversation with the U.S. ambassador

By Zeynep Gurcanli

The most interesting issue since Joe Biden’s presidential term began is where the Turkey-U.S. relationship will go.

During the previous administration, attempts to solve bilateral problems played out through ‘inter-leader dialogue’ between Erdogan and Trump. The mechanism didn’t work, as Turkey was the object of sanctions due to S-400 missiles it purchased from Russia and couldn’t solve the problem related to the areas controlled by the PKK terrorist organization’s proxy, the PYD -YPG, in northern Syria.

There is a new administration now. People wonder what Biden will do, both in terms of S -400s and PYD -YPG, how he will approach Turkish-Greek issues and which path he will choose for the Halkbank trial.

We found a chance to ask these questions to David Satterfield, the U.S. Ambassador in Ankara. In a conversation with a small group of journalists, Satterfield answered all questions on the condition that some will be off the record. The U.S. Ambassador prefaced his answers saying that the U.S. values its relations with Turkey in all its facets.

“Turkey is a valuable and irreplaceable NATO partner, and strategic ally,” he said, before offering more details. Here is what he said: ‘The S-400 sanctions are a requirement of American law. There isn’t any working group on this issue…’

Satterfield explained that the S-400 sanctions imposed on Turkey in the last days of the Trump administration were delicately ‘arranged.’ “Turkey’s entire defense industry wasn’t targeted with the Only some licenses of the Presidency of Defense Industries were hit with sanctions,” he said. As he says, they “had to take” this step and “felt sorry”. The new Defense Authorization Act that entered into force at the beginning of January “obliged” the country to impose the CAATSA sanctions by the end of January, according to Satterfield.

The ambassador underlined that the new law “includes more specific statements about Turkey’s ownership of S-400”.

There isn’t any working group about the usage of S-400s, contrary to statements made occasionally by Turkish authorities, according to Satterfield.

>> 3Support to the SDF in northern Syria will continue”Another issue which the Ambassador addressed is the continuation of support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) controlling the northeast of Syria, the backbone of which is the PKK terrorist organization’s extension, the PYD-YPG. The policy pursued by the U.S. in the fight against ISIS didn’t change and the U.S. will continue to work with the SDF in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria, Satterfield said.

>> “Allegations about the U.S.’s support of the July 15 Coup Attempt are baseless” Satterfield flatly denied allegations, often cited by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, that the U.S. was behind the July 15 coup attempt. “False charges, all of them are unfounded,” he said. “These aren’t responsible statements from an ally and a strategic partner.”Satterfield also stated that they are concerned about statements towards the LGBTQI community. “There is no room for such hate speeches in the world,” he said. As Ambassador says, they come across with these types of hate speeches not only in Turkey, but also everywhere, in the U.S. as well. “Those, who are different from the majority have also right to live happily in the society,” he said.

>> ‘Exploratory talks with Greece are positive; all foreign military forces in Libya should withdraw’The ambassador also expressed his opinions about other international issues concerning Turkey, including U.S. support for exploratory talks between Ankara and Athens. Satterfield called on both Turkey and Greece to avoid unilateral actions that increase tensions and raise the threat of conflict.

In Libya, Satterfield said the U.S. supports political dialogue convened under the auspices of the United Nations. “Supporting the process is for the benefit of everyone,” he said. The U.S. expects all foreign military forces in Libya to withdraw, he added. The U.S. also supports Turkey’s relationship with the EU. “This is for the benefit of both Turkey and EU as well as the U.S.,” said the Ambassador.

>> “The Halkbank issue is in the court system; it has no relation to the U.S. administration”In terms of economic relations, the ambassador expressed hopes for a gave the following messages about the Turkey-U.S. economic relations;
“There is over USD 30bn of American direct investment in Turkey. our foreign trade volume exceeded USD 20bn. 1,700 American companies do business in Turkey, which employ 75,000 Turkish citizens.”

“The previous administration predicted a foreign trade volume of USD100bn between the two countries. Considering the existing volume of USD 20bn, this is an ambitious objective. The goal was being ambitious.”

“I can say that all institutes relevant to trade in the U.S. strive to develop economic relations with Turkey. In this sense, the stabilization of the lira is encouraging. We have always placed importance on the stability of the Turkish economy. However, predictable, transparent and credible fiscal policies are necessary, and that’s not just my opinion. The Central Bank Governor and Finance Minister also say so. ”

In response to a question about the Halkbank trial, scheduled for next month at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and if the U.S. administration is imposing sanctions on Turkey due to the accusation that Halkbank helped Iran evade sanctions, Satterfield replied that the matter was a “subject of the judiciary, not the U.S. administration.” And finally, the burning question was why Biden hasn’t called Erdogan yet.First contact was made by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and more phone calls, either at the presidential or foreign ministerial level, are expected soon, according to Satterfield. “This is only a matter of timing,” he said.

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