Türkiye's top diplomat says Presidents Erdogan's meetings with French and Italian leaders at "NATO conference in Brussels were about joint production of Eurosam's SAMP/T defence systems.
Joint Turkish production of a European missile system was discussed when the Turkish president met with Italian and French leaders in Brussels earlier this week, according to Türkiye’s top diplomat.
During NATO meetings in Brussels on the Ukraine aggression, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi “and the main issue was the Eurosam SAMP/T and defence system,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC's Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum on Saturday.
Eurosam “is a joint venture of France and Italy. And we signed an agreement, a letter of intention with Eurosam like eight years ago, (but) nothing happened until today. Now those two countries are most curious to have joint production in Türkiye to export SAMP/T, the air defence system, to my country," Cavusoglu explained.
Transferring S-400s 'out of question'
Asked whether after its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence, Türkiye might buy more such systems from Russia, Cavusoglu said that Türkiye purchased the S-400s and it is a “done deal.”
Touching on rumors that Türkiye might give its S-400 system to Ukraine, Cavusoglu said this “is out of the question.”
Türkiye needs more air defence systems, and would prefer to buy them from the US or other allies, he said, but added: “If we cannot purchase from our allies, I have to find another source.”
Türkiye bought the S-400s after years of efforts to buy US Patriot missiles were rebuffed. After the S-400 purchase, the US suspended Türkiye from the F-35 jet program and imposed sanctions.
Both Türkiye and the US have expressed interest in resolving the dispute.
Natural gas, defence industry
Pointing out that Türkiye's natural gas dependence on Russia has fallen from 51 percent four years ago to less than 40 percent now, Cavusoglu said: “We are diversifying and finding new energy sources, and we are also investing a lot in renewables.”
On defence products, he said that Türkiye currently produces more than 70 percent of its defence needs.
Explaining that they are also working on an air defence system, Cavusoglu said that they are also trying to find alternatives to meet Türkiye's air defence system needs.
Sanctioned Russian oligarchs
Asked about Russian oligarchs, who have faced new Western sanctions since the Moscow's incursion began last month, he said: "We implement UN-approved sanctions, so if any Russian citizens want to visit Türkiye, of course, they can visit Türkiye. Now Russians are coming to Türkiye, as tourists. that's no problem.”
"If you mean that whether these oligarchs can do any business in Türkiye, then of course, if it is legal, and if it is not against international law,” then that is okay, he said.
He added: “(But) I will consider if it is against international law, then that is another story.”
On Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, Cavusoglu added: “Our job is to actually have them (Russia and Ukraine) find this face-saving way out.”
Cavusoglu added that in the end Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy will make the final decision, “so that's why we have been also trying to bring them together.”
Cavusoglu showed scepticism on Ukraine’s wish for NATO membership, saying: “I think Ukraine understood that that NATO membership will not happen. It was not going to happen anyway. And many European allies were against this NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia. So Ukraine understood this perfectly.”
Turkish FM Cavusoglu at Doha Forum on Ukraine-Russia crisis:— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) March 26, 2022
- We are facilitator and mediator
- Our job is to find to help Russia and Ukraine find a face-saving way-out
- Ukraine understood NATO membership will not happen pic.twitter.com/aqZbwjbs9L
Saying that Ukraine does not have the luxury of choosing between West and East, or between Europe and Russia, he underlined that Türkiye and Ukraine, as countries in the region, should have a balanced foreign policy with all.
The 20th edition of the Doha Forum kicked off in the Qatari capital on Saturday.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict, which began on February 24, has met international outrage, with the EU, US and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.
At least 1,035 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,650 injured, according to UN estimates, while cautioning that the real figure is likely far higher.
More than 3.7 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighbouring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.