ETurkey took an important step in the dispute over Sweden and Finland joining NATO during the visit of its Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Washington. After meeting his American colleague Antony Blinken late Wednesday night, he said negotiations with the US government to purchase the upgraded version of the F-16 fighter jet were going well.
The government informed Congress that the delivery of the F-16 was important not only for Turkey but also for the United States.
Turkey is also making demands on Sweden and Finland in the dispute it has sparked over NATO’s northward expansion. Yet Washington is the main recipient of Turkish leaders. On the one hand, it is a thorn in its side that the United States is supplying its last production fighter, the F-35, to Greece but not to Turkey. Turkey had withdrawn from F-35 development with the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.
Washington supported the Kurds
Last October, Ankara therefore applied for the purchase of 40 modernized F-16 planes and the components necessary to modernize the 80 F-16 planes of the Turkish Air Force. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the fighter jet is a good interim solution until Turkey develops its own TF-X fighter jet.
Ankara’s second concern in Washington concerns the American attitude towards the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. All Turkish attempts to end cooperation between its NATO allies and the YPG have so far failed. The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey and most Western countries.
However, the YPG had proven to be a powerful partner in the fight against ISIS as Turkey still turned a blind eye to useful Islamist extremists in the war against the Syrian regime. In order not to work directly with the YPG, Washington initiated in 2015 the establishment of the SDF militia alliance under the leadership of the YPG. She played a key role in defeating ISIS.
Turkey sees the YPG as a threat to its security
Initially, the YPG and its political arm, the PYD, controlled the entire northern corridor of Syria, from Syria’s border with Iraq in the east to Afrin in the west. Turkey saw this as a threat to its security, especially since the YPG was now equipped with Western weapons. The Turkish army therefore first marched on Afrin in March 2018. In October 2019, in an operation dubbed “Peace Spring”, they drove the YPG out of another 140 kilometer wide corridor. After that, Ankara declared Afrin and the newly occupied corridor to be “safe zones”.
In the future, Syrian refugees from Turkey are expected to settle there. The Turkish campaign in Western countries to participate in the construction of houses for the refugees who have been sent back has failed. On the contrary, the United States even decided to exempt the areas controlled by the PYD/YPG from the sanctions against Syria, allowing American companies to invest there. This should strengthen the Kurds in their fight against the return of IS.