Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that Turkey would not give up on relations with its NATO ally the United States, nor with Russia.
Ties between Turkey and the United States are strained over a long list of issues, but mainly Syria, where Ankara has moved closer to Russia due to Washington’s backing of Syrian Kurdish groups, despite Moscow’s support for Syrian the government, which Turkey opposes.
“We do not have any intention to give up on our alliance with the United States, neither on our relations that we have established with Russia, from energy to security, nor on relations with Iran,” Erdoğan said at the opening ceremony of a train station in Ankara.
“The developments in Syria led to the worldwide security crisis. The regime in Syria, to our eyes, has the blackest record. We are uncomfortable seeing Syria becoming an arm wrestling arena,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday about how to stop “chemical massacres”, but added that, “nobody has a right to burn Mediterranean and Syrian territory.”
The governments of the United States, France and Britain are contemplating strikes against President Bashar Assad’s government in response to what they say was a chemical weapons attack over the weekend on the town Douma, near Damascus.
Turkey is at odds with the United States over the Kurdish-held town of Manbij, where U.S. forces are training Syrian Kurdish fighters to fight the remnants of Islamic State. Erdoğan and other Turkish officials have previously pledged to drive Kurdish forces out of Manbij, something U.S. military leaders have warned Turkey not to try.
In an apparent reference to Manbij and Syrian Kurdish forces, Erdoğan said: “We will not be directing our weapons at our allied countries’ troops. But still we would recommend allied states’ soldiers not to stand next to them.”
Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades.
Referring to the YPG, Erdoğan said: “It is as wrong to protect terrorists as to protect the Syrian regime that uses chemical weapons.”
The United States was as wrong as Russia, he said. “Those who are supporting the killer Assad are making a mistake, those who are supporting the PYD are making a mistake. Turkey is the only country that brings welfare to the place it goes.”
The president also addressed the troubles that have hit the Turkish economy, particularly the fall in the value of the lira, saying outside forces were conducting a planned attack on the economy due to the success of his administration.
“If you are trying to bring terror to our country’s economy, you are making a mistake. You will pay for this. The increases in the exchange rates are not being done by the book. Our growth rate is disclosed as 7 percent annually. Exports are at an all time high. There are serious indications that tourism will be good this year. We began the construction of Akkuyu nuclear plant. This is making some people uncomfortable. We have disclosed $135 billion of investment incentives. We are receiving great news from our defence industry everyday. They cannot discipline us by exchange rates.”