By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey would be forced to "look elsewhere" to satisfy its defense needs if the current dispute surrounding F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. continued, Turkey's president on Tuesday said he told his U.S. counterpart during a recent meeting.
"We said that if the current disagreement on F-35 fighter jets continues, Turkey must look elsewhere to meet medium term needs," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group about a meeting he had with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Nov.13.
Underlining that Turkey was a partner in the production of F-35 fighter jets, Erdogan said: "We are not a customer, we are a partner."
Turkey's acquisition of the advanced Russian air-defense system prompted the Trump administration to remove Turkey from the F-35 fifth-generation joint strike fighter program in July.
The U.S. maintains that 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.
Erdogan also slammed accusations against Turkey in the U.S. that Ankara was hostile towards Kurds.
"We are not against our Kurdish brothers, we are against the PKK, PYD and YPG, which are terror groups," said Erdogan.
Erdogan also criticized U.S. support to the PKK/YPG terror group in Syria.
"Those trying to show the separatist terror group [PKK/YPG] as fighting against Daesh[/ISIS] now try to hide that group's civilian massacres," Erdogan said.
Turkey is aware that the engagement between the U.S. and [PKK/YPG] terror group in Syria will not end soon, he added, noting, however, that it was a "reality" that the terror group found itself in an increasingly difficult position in the region.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so that a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
On Oct. 22, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists would pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with Syria and security forces from Turkey and Russia will mount joint patrols there.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.
During his speech, Erdogan stressed that Turkey's fight with terrorism would continue until last terrorist neutralized.
"Notably in Syria and northern Iraq, our fight will continue until all terror threats towards our country end and the last terrorists neutralized," he said.