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Türkiye, US need to have ‘a strategic conversation’: Turkish presidential spokesperson

Türkiye and the US need to have a larger geopolitical “strategic conversation,” Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Monday, noting that relations between the two countries are based on “mutual respect” and “mutual interests.” 

Addressing the US-Türkiye Business Forum in Washington, D.C., Kalin thanked members of the US business community for attending the forum and also for making pledges to help Türkiye.

The forum convened in the US capital on Monday while the US private sector raised more than $110 million to assist Türkiye following last month’s devastating earthquakes.

“The work that we will be doing for the next couple of years is huge,” he continued, noting the reconstruction efforts.

Asked about relations between Türkiye and the US, Kalin stressed the need for a “strategic conversation” while noting that Türkiye has been subject to “unfair” and “biased” scrutiny of various types when it comes to the “meaning and the strength of our alliances” and also regarding the war in Ukraine and other regional issues.

“Whatever differences we may have, we can address them,” he said.

“We can certainly have certain disagreements on certain issues. Even the closest allies, like the UK and the United States or any other partner, there are times when you have differences, but I think those differences can certainly be overcome,” Kalin said.

“The Türkiye-US relationship of course is based on mutual respect, mutual interests and on principles of good governance, principles of understanding,” he said.

Stressing the importance of Türkiye as a “key player,” Kalin recalled the energy crisis in Europe following the Russian war in Ukraine.

He said the capacity of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which supplies Azerbaijani gas to Turkish markets and will eventually bring gas to Europe, can be increased.

TANAP is the central part of the Southern Gas Corridor which connects the giant Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan to Europe through the South Caucasus Pipeline and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

A second alternative, he said, is Eastern Mediterranean energy resources, he said, namely the East Med project, to carry natural gas to Europe.

“In both alternatives, Türkiye is a key player,” he said.

However, Kalin added that some members of the US Congress have a “very one-sided reading of the geopolitical realities on the ground.”

“We tried to reach out to them, explain to them, (saying) look at the wider picture here,” he said.

“We would like to see more Congress people coming and visiting Türkiye, having more engagements with the Turkish people, the business community,” he continued.

Asked about Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids, Kalin said when the two countries applied to NATO, Türkiye looked at its “own security checklist.”

“In terms of Türkiye’s national security interests, we have some issues in those countries because the PKK, various terror organizations as well as FETO, which is responsible for the July 15 (2016) coup attempt (in Türkiye) have taken deep roots, especially in Sweden,” he said.

Recalling his past conversations with his Swedish counterparts a year ago, during which he raised Türkiye’s security concerns, Kalin said: “They first didn’t understand the depth of their (the terrorist organizations’) presence in their own country.”

“I think we are in a much better place now then we were a year ago,” he said, adding that Sweden says they “need some time to put the necessary legal framework in place to prosecute these people,” citing Sweden’s new anti-terror bill which will go into force on June 1.

“So this is a timeline that they have, not us. We didn’t impose this timeline,” Kalin said.

Noting that according to current Swedish law, it is not a crime to be a member of the PKK terrorist organization in the country, Kalin said: “They tell us that they cannot really do much until this new federal law becomes effective.”

“Now we are being criticized severely again by some of our friends here, especially in Washington, and I know this is the sentiment among some Congress members as well,” he said.

“But the fact is that we have this criteria. Once they meet this criteria, the process will move forward.”

He also recalled North Macedonia’s NATO membership process, which was held pending for more than 10 years due to a name dispute with its southern neighbor Greece.

On the process regarding the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye, Kalin said linking Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids with F-16 sales is “completely illogical, unacceptable and counterproductive.”

“It sends a very wrong message, and it doesn’t help the process,” he added.

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