By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – The United States Congress plays an important role in the development of U.S.-Turkish relations and in the strategic partnership between the two countries, Turkey's deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.
Speaking at the House of Representatives, Yavuz Selim Kiran said Turkey is planning to host an increased number of U.S. congressional delegations to Ankara as well as establish more contacts on Capitol Hill.
"Our collective efforts to overcome existing problems should not be undermined by unconstructive legislative attempts," Kiran said.
"We consider Congress an important factor in our relations with the U.S. and hope to develop more constructive relations," he added.
Kiran went on to discuss a number of problems that have caused tensions between Washington and Ankara, including Turkey's procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
He was part of a delegation which included Cagri Erhan, a member of the Presidential Security and Foreign Policy Committee, and Turkish journalist Bora Bayraktar. The delegation arrived in the U.S. for a series of panels in Washington and New York aimed at increasing awareness on U.S.-Turkish relations as well as dispelling any misinformation on the subject.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile system which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey's role in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program and which could trigger congressional sanctions.
The U.S. has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey's receipt of the multi-million dollar fighter jets.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing that the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, has emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
"Our S-400 decision does not signify a strategic change of course. Turkey never thought of choosing an alternative to NATO. Our NATO membership is central in our defense planning and security policies," Kiran said.
"We have not always agreed on everything. But friends don't always have to agree on everything."
The minister emphasized that this was a critical time in the two countries' bilateral relations but said dialogue and diplomacy were necessary components to overcome the differences between them.