Blinken warns off Turkey from buying more Russian missiles

He said the air defence system sales provided Russia with “revenue, access and influence.”
Thursday 29/04/2021
A file photo shows Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference at the US State Department in Washington.(AFP)
A file photo shows Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference at the US State Department in Washington. (AFP)

WASHINGTON--US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Turkey and all US allies on Wednesday should refrain from making further purchases of Russian weaponry, threatening the possibility of more sanctions.

Frayed relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States were further tested over the weekend after President Joe Biden recognised the 1915 Armenian massacres as genocide, infuriating Ankara.

Speaking at a virtual event at Washington’s Foreign Press Centre, Blinken said that, given Biden’s long-standing views on the Armenia issue, his decision was not and should not have been a surprise. Blinken also reiterated that Turkey was a critical NATO ally for Washington and said he hoped the two sides can resolve their issues.

Nevertheless,  he also warned Ankara against further purchases from Russia. Turkey has said it is in talks with Moscow on procuring a second batch of S-400 ground to air missiles.

“It’s also very important going forward that Turkey, and for that matter all US allies and partners, avoid future purchases of Russian weaponry, including additional S-400s,” Blinken said.

“Any significant transactions with Russian defence entities, again, could be subject to the law, to CAATSA, and that’s separate from and in addition to the sanctions that have already been imposed,” he said, referring to Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, which is designed to dissuade countries from buying military equipment from Russia.

Blinken also said the air defence system sales provided Russia with “revenue, access and influence.”

US-Turkish relations have been strained over issues ranging from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems, over which it has been the target of US sanctions, to policy differences on Syria, human rights and a US court case targeting Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank.

Washington in December imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defences, while Ankara has been angered that the United States has armed Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria and not extradited a US-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

On Friday, Biden, in his first call to the Turkish president since taking office in January, told Erdogan about his decision on Armenians. The US president had once described Erdogan as “an autocrat”.

Blinken said the two leaders had a “good conversation” and that Biden was looking forward to meeting Erdogan in June on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday Biden’s declaration was “simply outrageous” and Turkey would respond over the coming months.