"We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians, and will start co-production. Later, we may work with S-500s," Turkish president says.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan answer questions in a televised interview, March 6 2019.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan answer questions in a televised interview, March 6 2019. (AA)

Turkey has concluded agreements regarding its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile systems, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

Speaking in a televised interview, the Turkish president said that Ankara and Moscow have finalised the agreement on Turkey buying the S-400 missile system.

"We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians and will start co-production. Later, we may work with S-500s," Erdogan said.

The S-500 will be the next generation missile defence system.

US officials have suggested that Turkey should buy US Patriot missiles defence system rather than the Russian system, arguing the S-400 is incompatible with NATO systems, but Turkish officials have said the purchase from Russia is decided, even if Turkey were to also buy the Patriot system.

Countering terrorism

During the interview with a private TV channel, President Erdogan also highlighted Turkey's determination to eliminate PKK-linked YPG terror groups in northern Syria. 

He vowed that Turkey "target anyone who targets our soldiers, regardless of their nationality."

Erdogan said Turkey had dealt heavy blows to the terrorist PKK at home and abroad as never seen before.

"Their strength both in the mountains and cities has been weakened a lot," he said.

He said Turkey would continue its counter-terror operations until the last terror threat against the country is eliminated.

"There has been a tremendous increase in the number of terrorists who surrendered. Participation in the PKK is at its lowest level," Erdogan said, vowing to conduct new operations to destroy the roots of terrorism.

He went on to say that Turkey would destroy such roots regardless of their origin country.

"We will destroy them in Syria if they are coming from Syria, or in Iraq if they are coming from Iraq.

"Just like we eliminated the terror corridor in Syria, we will strike again if there are new developments there," Erdogan said.

Recalling US discourse on "not targeting Kurds", Erdogan stressed that he warned President Donald Trump about using the wrong "expressions".

"I told [Trump] that as long as you use these expressions, you will make mistakes. Our struggle is against this [PKK] terror group, not against our Kurdish brothers. There might be Kurds, French, German, British people among this terror group," he said, noting that foreign Daesh terrorists were "from all around the world".

Erdogan said Turkey would target "anyone who targets our soldiers, regardless of their nationality".

Turning to Syria, he said more than 310,000 Syrians had returned to their homes in Jarablus, Azaz, Afrin and Al-Bab.

"There is peace, freedom and democracy in those areas under Turkey's control."

He said "despite disputes sometimes", Turkey and Russia were maintaining their cooperation against terrorism in Syria's cities of Idlib and Afrin.

US weapons after withdrawal from Syria

Regarding the US withdrawal from Syria, Erdogan said Turkey does not want terror groups to fill the power vacuum that the withdrawal will create. 

"We are closely following the US withdrawal process from Syria, Erdogan said and added that, "Turkey must control the proposed safe zone in northern Syria, Turkey cannot accept anyone else to control this area."

During the interview, he warned that the US administration should not leave their military equipment with the YPG.

The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group that has waged an armed campaign against the Turkish state for more than three decades that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. Turkey, the US and the EU recognise the PKK as a terror group. 

"If the US is to take weapons out of Syria, they can, but if they won't, give them to Turkey, we will negotiate for them just don't leave them to terrorists", said President Erdogan, referring to YPK/PKK.

They must not give these weapons to the terrorists," he said, referring to the YPG/PKK.

The US has allied itself with the PKK/YPG to fight the Daesh terrorist group in Syria, but Turkey says that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.

President Erdogan also said the US statement that they had the serial numbers of these weapons was not a solution.

He stressed that Turkey faced the same problem in Iraq and the weapons had been left to the PKK terror group.

Safe zone in Syria

On the safe zone in Syria, Erdogan recalled that he had first proposed establishing a safe zone to former US president Barrack Obama.

Erdogan said the safe zone must be controlled by Turkey and no other country would be allowed to share control.

"Because an attack from there [Syria] is possible at any moment.

"Let me tell you what they [the US] will do; they will give control of this area to the YPG and PYD. It is not possible for Turkey to accept this."

Hailing Trump's "firm stance" on Syria’s safe zone, Erdogan said the US "deep state" might be blocking the process.

"However, the US must put an end to its ties with the PYD/YPG terror group."

In December, Trump announced plans to withdraw all 2,000 American troops from the war-torn country, saying the US-led coalition had succeeded in militarily defeating Daesh.

Last month, however, the Trump administration backtracked, saying some 200-400 troops would remain in Syria as part of a peacekeeping effort.

US military personnel have since said that a couple hundred troops will remain in the region, with forces staying in northeast Syria to create a "safe zone" as well as forces being stationed at the al Tanf garrison in southern Syria.

Last week, while speaking to US troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Trump said that 100 percent of Daesh territory had been taken over.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies