Ahead of the crucial NATO and G-20 meetings, the country's defence minister reached out to opposition parties to send a strong message to Washington.
Turkey's Defense Minister and former military chief Hulusi Akar held crucial talks with opposition party leaders as well as the leader of the governing AK Party's ally the MHP, to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding Ankara's pursuit of procuring the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
Akar will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, where he's scheduled to have a separate meeting with his American counterpart Mark Esper, Acting US Defense Secretary, who has also been nominated for the post of Pentagon chief.
One of the most crucial and yet outstanding issues between the two countries is the F-35 deal and Turkey’s procurement of S-400s from Russia.
Reaching out to opposition parties two days ahead of the NATO meeting and four days ahead of the G-20 summit in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump are likely to meet, Akar reportedly briefed the party leaders about the country's need to buy S-400s from Russia.
For over a year, Turkey has been facing increasing pressure from Washington to reverse its decision. As Ankara stood firm on procuring the sophisticated air defence system, Washington threatened to dismiss Turkey from its F-35 program, which happens to be one of the world’s most expensive arms projects.
While many political observers are hoping that the upcoming meeting between Erdogan and Trump will sort out the differences between the two NATO allies, the Turkish defence minister's outreach to the opposition was meant to send a message that the country is united in its bid to secure the S-400 deal with Russia, according to Turkish defence ministry sources.
“While the S-400 deal appears to be a political decision made by the president, it is indeed a state decision. The minister (Akar) wanted to explain the nature of the S-400 deal to the opposition leaders,” said a defence ministry source.
“He tells them that this is not a decision solely made by either Erdogan or the [AK Party] government. It’s about our national security,” the source told TRT World.
Akar first met with the MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, who gave his consent to the president and the AK Party, backing the Turkish leadership to defend the country’s essential interests against Washington’s hardball tactics.
“We introduced some of the information on certain topics to the MHP leader Devlet Bahceli and listened to his views and suggestions. It was a good discussion,” Akar said after the meeting.
“The same way we continue to introduce our information on the issues with other political leaders, exchanging views on the country’s politics pursued by the state of the Republic of Turkey,” the defence minister added.
After the Bahceli meeting, Akar has also met with the IYI Party leader Meral Aksener and the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Both leaders are participating in an opposition alliance against the AK Party-MHP alliance.
During the IYI Party group meeting on Tuesday, Aksener said they will continue to support the government on external issues including the S-400.
Akar, who was briefly apprehended by coup plotters on July 15, 2016, due to his opposition to the putsch attempt and played a crucial role to defeat the coup attempt, is a technocrat minister, appointed by Erdogan to his post from outside the parliament after June 2018 elections.