Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Moscow was turned into a show during the presentation by Vladimir Putin of the Russian attempt at a 5th generation stealth fighter jet Su-57 during an aircraft exhibition. At the time of this presentation, Russian cargo planes were landed at the Mürted base in Ankara, in a continuation of the delivery of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems.
The photograph of the two men in front of Russian fighters is seen as a message to Washington. The US has suspended Turkey’s participation in the co-production program of its own stealth fighter, the F-35, in response to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system. The first 4 Turkish fighters, despite the fact that the necessary funds were paid, were not delivered and the training of the Turkish pilots was discontinued. In the past, Erdogan had said that if Turkey was permanently excluded from the F-35 program it would seek alternatives to Moscow.
However, Russia appears to be going ahead with the training of Turkish officers despite disputes over Syria. Turkish military specialists will be trained from September 1, 2019, to January 2, 2020, in the handling of the Russian long-range S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
“From September 1, training of Turkish military specialists will begin with its completion (to be expected) at the end of the year. January 2 is the scheduled end of training. After that, the Turkish Republic will be able to have the S-400 system under its direct control”, said G. Novikov, CEO of Almaz-Antey, which manufactures the systems.
Against this backdrop, Vladimir Putin said Moscow is ready to co-operate with Turkey to co-produce the SU-35s and SU-57s. Turkey is a member of NATO and in the event of such a co-operation the US reaction could be even greater. Washington argues that there could be no coexistence of Russian weapons systems with the F-35s as they fear that the secrets of the F-35 stealth abilities and software could be leaked.
Erdogan at a news conference with Putin declined to comment on the issue of Russian fighter jets, but said his country seeks co-operation in anti-radar, rocket launchers and various other defense systems.
But the official reason for the Turkish president’s visit was the developments in Syria and the major differences between the two sides on developments in Idlib. Erdogan said more than 500 civilians were killed in May and more than 1,200 civilians were injured in the Syrian regime’s attacks on Idlib.
Erdogan has said that the assassination of civilians in Idlib by Assad’s regime on the ground that they are fighting terrorism cannot be accepted.
He stressed that they can fulfill their responsibilities as these derive by the Sochi agreement only if the Syrian regime’s attacks sease. He spoke of self-defense because of the attacks along the Turkish border and left open the possibility of his country’s intervention in northern Syria.
Putin stressed that Turkey and Russia are continuing work on the Astana process in resolving Syrian issue. He also stressed that his Turkish counterpart had agreed on the elimination of terrorists and of the things that must be done in Idlib.
The Russian president said Moscow was concerned about the situation in Idlib and stressed that they had agreed with Turkey on additional measures to eliminate terrorists.
Hurriyet Turkish political analyst Hande Firat says that “Putin has previously said that before the Sochi agreement, 50% of Idlib was controlled by terrorists and now 90% is controlled”. Ankara, however, paints a different picture and reports that the HTS has 25 to 30,000 men and counts another 8,000 as members of other terrorist organizations”.
In essence, Moscow accuses Turkey of failing to fulfill its obligations in Idlib and claims that the presence of terrorist organizations in the region has increased. Erdogan’s stance on this crucial issue is expected by September 16, when the trilateral meeting of Turkey, Iran, Russia in Ankara will take place./ibna