‘Turkey has been enormously important in our joint efforts to fight ISIS,’ says NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg at London summit
U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday stressed Turkey’s “key role” in fighting Daesh/ISIS terrorists in Syria.
Speaking in a joint press conference in London ahead of a two-day NATO summit, they stressed the “very good relationship” with Ankara in terms of the alliance.
Additionally, Trump said he has a good personal relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Praising Turkey’s role in the Oct. 26 operation that led to the death of Daesh/ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump said: “And I will say this, three weeks ago when we got Al-Baghdadi, Turkey was very helpful. And we flew over areas that were totally controlled by Turkey and the Turkish military. We said we are coming. They absolutely were very supportive.
“Actually, we didn’t tell them what we were doing and where we’re going. Turkey could not have been nicer could not have been more supportive.”
Stoltenberg, for his part, added: “Turkey has been enormously important in our joint efforts to fight ISIS.”
The NATO chief stressed that the coalition to defeat Daesh has been able to liberate territories under control of the terrorist group by using infrastructure based in Turkey.
“So, in the fight against ISIS, Turkey has played a key role,” he added.
F-35 fighter jets
Addressing the controversy over Turkey buying Russian S-400 defense systems, Trump said Ankara had good reason, as when the U.S. refused to sell Turkey Patriot missiles it had to seek other sellers.
“They tried to buy ours and the Obama administration said you can’t have them,” he said. “And they said that a number of times and then Turkey went out and bought the Russian missile.”
“So we’ll see what happens. We’re still talking about it. But they wanted to buy the Patriots. They tried to buy the Patriots. I think most of you know that. And they were shut off from buying the Patriots. They were not allowed to buy it,” he added.
Mentioning the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, which Turkey was suspended from over the S-400 purchase, Turkey bought “billions and billions worth of F-35 fighter jets, it was one of the largest orders,” Trump said.
If the U.S. refuses to deliver the F-35s, Turkey will have to explore other avenues, he added.
Stoltenberg urged continued talks between the U.S. and Turkey to solve the issue.
This July Turkey’s acquisition of the advanced Russian air-defense system prompted the Trump administration to remove Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program. The U.S. claims the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the jet and is incompatible with NATO systems.
Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Turkish officials have also proposed setting up a commission to study the issue, but has yet to get a positive response from the U.S.