Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking to Reuters also said that it is “not rational” for US to hurt ally Turkey on sanctions, Syria “safe zone.”

Turkish President Erdogan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey, September 13, 2019.
Turkish President Erdogan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey, September 13, 2019. (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will discuss buying US Patriot missiles with President Donald Trump this month, saying his personal bond with the US leader could overcome a crisis caused by Ankara buying Russian air defence systems.

Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system in July raised the prospect of US sanctions, and the State Department has said an offer to sell Raytheon Co's Patriot missile defence system to Ankara has expired.

However Erdogan told Reuters he had discussed buying Patriots in a phone call with Trump two weeks ago and would follow up when they meet at the UN General Assembly, which opens next week.

"I said no matter what package of ... S-400s we get, we can buy from you a certain amount of Patriots," Erdogan told Reuters on Friday.

"But I said we have to see conditions that at least match up to the S-400s," Erdogan said, adding that he was referring to the possibility of joint production and favourable lending terms.

"He [Trump] said, 'Are you serious?' I said, 'Yes'," Erdogan said, adding that he told Trump they would discuss it in greater detail when they meet.

Asked whether he would also ask Trump to prevent the US Treasury imposing a heavy fine on Turkey's mainly state-owned Halkbank for violating US sanctions on Iran, Erdogan said he was confident they could avoid such a "mistake," citing what he said was "a different kind of trust" between the two men.

"In my opinion a country like the USA will not want to hurt its ally Turkey any more. This is not a rational behaviour," he said in an interview at the Dolmabahce palace complex on the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

'Safe zone'

Erdogan and Trump will also discuss the plans to establish the US-Turkey backed safe zone along 450 km (280 miles) of Syrian border stretching from the Euphrates river to the Iraq border, a region controlled mainly by US-backed YPG/PKK terrorists.

On Sunday the two countries launched joint military patrols in the area, but Erdogan says that Washington has dragged its feet in an operation Turkey sees as crucial to driving the YPG/PKK. which it designates a terrorist group, away from its border.

The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organisation. In its 30-year terror campaign against the Turkish state more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants have been killed.
Turkey, the US and the EU recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

The country, which has faced a decades-long terror campaign in its southeast border, fears growing terror threats on its southern border.

Turkey has warned it will act alone if the safe zone is not established this month, raising the prospect of a third Turkish military operation into northern Syria in three years.

"The peace corridor is the essential thing. We will not allow a terror corridor on our borders and we will take whatever steps are necessary on this subject," he said.

"It is Turkey which is fighting with these terror groups ... We are your partner in NATO. You give them the weapons for free that you will not sell for money to your NATO ally," he said, referring to US arms supplies to the YPG/PKK.

"We are fed up with explaining this ... I think Trump must understand us," Erdogan said.

Russia and Iran back Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad against militants who sought his overthrow. The United States, European and Arab allies as well as Turkey have supported different rebel and opposition factions.

Assad has regained control of most territory lost in the early stages of the eight-year conflict and has vowed to retake every inch of Syria, including the northwestern province of Idlib, where Syrian and foreign militants hold sway alongside other more moderate factions.

Erdogan reiterated a warning that Turkey would be forced to let Syrian refugees on its soil leave for Europe if Western nations did not provide greater support to Turkey and support its plans for a safe zone where Syrians could be settled.

"If you can’t accept this business, we will open the gates. Let them go from there wherever they want," he said.

Establishing the zone 20 miles (32 km) inside northeast Syria would allow refugees in Turkey "to return to their lands, and allow for all their needs — from education, health, shelter — to be met. It will allow them to live on their own lands and break away from the tent life and container cities," he said.

Refugee crisis

Erdogan said the financial aid Turkey was receiving from the European Union was not sufficient to ease the burden of 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey since the civil war erupted in 2011.

Turkey says it has spent $40 billion hosting the Syrians, and a deal with the EU to give 6 billion euros to support those efforts was not enough and too slow, a message he would repeat to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the United Nations.

Erdogan will host the presidents of Russia and Iran on Monday for talks that would focus on securing a lasting truce in Idlib, preventing a fresh refugee wave into Turkey, and asserting control over militants there, he said. 

Source: Reuters