Turkey is ready to open a channel for dialogue to solve its problems with Greece “peacefully,” the country’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said in an interview to the Anadolu news agency Sunday.
“We have problems with Greece… We are in favor of solving these problems with peaceful ways and methods by negotiating in accordance with the spirit of alliance and good neighborly relations,” Akar said, according to the portion of the interview published in Anadolu’s English web page.
Greek TV station Skai reported that Akar added that Turkey is consistently in favor of “dividing the wealth in the Aegean.”
Akar added that, following the deadly earthquakes in southeastern Turkey, Akar said following the quakes, “we had a number of positive talks and dialogues with our allies, friends, and neighbors,” Anadolu reported.
On the issue of purchasing F-16 fighter planes and upgrade kits, which has encountered opposition in the US Congress, Akar said: “The talks with the US Department of Defense on the modernization and supply of the F16 have reached a positive point. We also know that (the purchase) was backed by the White House,” adding that Turkey expects Congress to take a “sensible decision” on this issue. For good measure, though, Akar said Turkey is not “desperate” over the purchase, adding: “we have other options.”
Ankara maintains that the jets would strengthen not only Turkey but also NATO. US Congrees, including the powerful head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, object to a possible use of the F-16 in contesting Greece’s sovereignty over parts of the Aegean through overflights.
Skai TV also reported that Turkey expects to be reimbursed to the tune of $1.4 billion for being kicked out of the F-35 program, and that talks are underway with the US on the matter.. Akar is reported to have said that, the reimbursement aside, Turkey is “owed” five F-35s.
The US decided not to sell the advanced technology fighter to Turkey and kick it out of a co-production agreement in retaliation for Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia.
In his interview, Akar also touched upon the grain deal signed in July 2022 by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations allowing the resumption of wheat exports from three Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, disrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022. Ukraine is a major exporter of grain and its product is crucial for global food supply chains.
Akar expressed his hope that the deal, which expires on March 18, will be extended.
“Both sides (Russia and Ukraine) have a positive attitude and we believe that it will be extended,” Akar told Anadolu from Turkey’s quake-stricken Hatay province.
“Akar said around 56,000 Syrians in Turkiye have returned to their home country across the border since the Feb. 6 earthquakes, which were centered in Turkiye’s southern region and caused devastation in northern Syria,” the Turkish news agency reported.
“He also rebuffed claims that there has been an influx of Syrian refugees to Turkiye via its southern border. Many Syrian citizens living in Turkiye are returning to their home country after their properties were destroyed and their relatives died in the quakes,” it added.