Turkey said in remarks this weekend it will not choose between its Western allies, including the United States; Russia; and Iran, particularly in the ongoing Syrian civil war, where Iran has a significant stronghold.
According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aide, the trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia, and Iran in Ankara this month – where Syria’s future was discussed without the United States present – did not indicate a shift away from the U.S.-Turkey alliance. Instead, it demonstrated the country’s increased strategic importance.
“To me, that photo op underlines the strategic importance of Turkey and shows its rise in foreign policy. This is not a shift of axis,” Ayşe Sözen Usluer, the head of international relations for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said in an interview with the Hurriyet Daily News.
Usluer reportedly added:
We know that Turkey is a very important member in the NATO alliance, and this partnership is indispensable for both sides. If we are giving a close picture with Russia regarding Syria, and we have relations with Russia, it certainly does not mean that we have abandoned the alliances we had established with the West.
Also this month, Iran’s defense chief, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said defeating the Islamic State (Daesh) is equivalent to defeating the U.S. and its power in the region.
“The defeat of Daesh means the defeat of America’s regional policy and thus we should expect that this defeat would probably mark the beginning of a new era of hostilities and regional tensions,” Hatami said at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS).
On the heels of Turkey’s announcement that it will not choose between the United States or Russia and Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoğlu on Friday in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss Syria and a range of bilateral issues.
According to a press release from the State Department, the two “agreed on the value of U.S.-Turkish partnership in the region and of maintaining close communication. Secretary Pompeo conveyed the Administration’s concern for U.S. citizens and Mission Turkey local staff detained in Turkey.”
The release added, “Building upon prior discussions on Manbij, the two reaffirmed their support for the established bilateral process to find a common way forward. They also discussed the United States’ commitment to supporting Turkey’s national security concerns.”