Turkey Says Relations With Russia Are Not an Alternative to U.S. and EU

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s relations with Russia are not an alternative to the U.S. and the European Union and the country “can perfectly balance” its foreign policy, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Amid an unfolding diplomatic conflict between the NATO allies that’s battering the Turkish currency, Turkey warned the U.S. earlier this month that it may start looking for new alliances. Cavusoglu criticized EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization states for being insincere in relations with Russia and adopting double standards toward Turkey.

Turkey is balancing its foreign policy because “living in this part of the world, we shouldn’t prefer between this country or that country, we don’t have a luxury to chose either one,” Cavusoglu said at a joint briefing with his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius in Vilnius on Tuesday.

While some EU and NATO members are seeking to mend relations with Russia and “have forgotten” Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Cavusoglu said Turkey will never recognize the seizure. “When they do it, it’s OK. When Turkey has to deal with Russia, like in Syria or other issues, then it’s always questioned.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has touted Russia as among the alternatives available to Turkey amid the political conflict with the U.S. and the crisis engulfing its currency. Erdogan will meet with Russian and Iranian leaders in Iran on Sept. 7 to discuss developments in Syria and how to deal with radical Islamic groups who control the last major opposition holdout there.

Syria, Missiles

“I didn’t invite Russia to Syria,” Cavusoglu said. “And now Russia is the guarantor of the regime. I need to work with Russia to consolidate the cease-fire on the ground. It hasn’t been easy.” Turkey is struggling to prevent a possible attack by the Syrian regime on the northwestern province of Idlib, which is home to 3.5 million civilians, Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu defended Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile systems, saying that allies, primarily the U.S., couldn’t or didn’t want to sell a missile defense system that Turkey “urgently needs.” The U.S., which also isn’t providing guarantees to sell Patriots, the U.S. equivalent of the S-400, should stop threatening to block delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey, he said.

If the U.S. says “I will do whatever I want, like in a cowboy movie, then there would be an answer and we’ve already told this to them,” Cavusoglu said.

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