Turkey is "saddened" by the intensification of sanctions rhetoric by the US and Europe, but the pressure will not stop Ankara from pursuing policies which serve its interests, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced.
"It is sad that the rhetoric of sanctions against our country has intensified recently in the United States and Europe. These measures against Turkey will not stop our attempts to defend our rights," Erdogan said, speaking to reporters in Ankara after a meeting of ministers on Monday.
"We are waiting not for sanctions, but for the EU to fulfill its promises, and for US support in our fight against terrorist organisations in the region," he added.
Sanctions Double Whammy
Erdogan's comments follow moves by the EU and the US to slap sanctions on Turkey, with Brussels agreeing on the expansion of existing personal sanctions over Ankara's unauthorised drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, and US lawmakers packed Turkey and S-400-related restrictions into the 2021 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA, which was passed by the Senate on Friday, has yet to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto the bill over its lack of action in throttling Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a piece of internet legislation exonerating internet sites from liability for content posted by users. Trump is also displeased over the bill's proposal to rename US military installations named after Civil War-era Confederate generals. Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
New Treasury Restrictions
In a related development, the US Treasury announced Monday that it had slapped sanctions on four Turkish officials and the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), the Turkish government office responsible for strengthening Turkish national security and managing the supply of military technology, over the S-400 buy.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the US's new CATSA-related sanctions targeted Turkey "for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system."
Pompeo on sanctioning Turkey for buying Russia's S-400 pic.twitter.com/eLWGQZIO28— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) December 14, 2020
"The sanctions include a ban on all US export licenses and authorisations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr Ismail Demir, SSB's president, and other SSB officers," the statement added.
Pompeo specified that the US had made clear to Ankara repeatedly that "its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of US military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia's defence sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defence industry."
The European Union also opened the door to new sanctions against Turkey at a summit Friday, although the European Council stopped short of implementing new restrictions, such as an arms embargo or sanctions targeting various economic sectors, instead approving sanctions on an unspecified number of Turkish officials and entities involved in the drilling. In a statement, the bloc accused Ankara of engaging "in unilateral actions and provocations" and of escalating "its rhetoric against the EU, EU Member States and European leaders."
Along with the maritime territorial disputes with Greece and Cyprus, Turkey has been entangled in conflicts with several other nations in the region, including Syria - where it has sent troops and militias, to Damascus's anger - and western Libya, where Turkish troops and military supplies have helped to prop up the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. Turkey also provided support for Azerbaijan in its recent war with Armenia over the Armenian-held breakaway of Nagorno-Karabakh. In a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan late last week, Erdogan appeared to offend Iran's sensibilities after reciting a poem about Iranian Azerbaijan, a region of the Islamic Republic populated by ethnic Azeris, with his remarks interpreted as a possible irredentist provocation. Erdogan has been involved in a long-running spat with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, with the verbal row including comparing each other with Hitler and accusing one another of engaging in war crimes.