Turkey's new Washington envoy aims to advance relations with US

Turkey’s new U.S. ambassador said Tuesday that he aims to strengthen relations with Washington in all fields, a day after starting his duty.

In a video message addressed to the Turkish American community, Hasan Murat Mercan said trans-Atlantic relations have always been of importance to Turkey and they will continue to be.

“It will be among the most important tasks of all of us to carry the existing political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries much further,” said Mercan.

During his time in office, he said he would work with members of the Turkish-American community to better promote Turkey in the U.S. and do his part for the development of Turkey.

“You can be sure that we will need your support, participation and advice,” he said.

The embassy and consulates in the U.S. will work 24/7 to promote Turkey and articulate its interests, he added.

Mercan, Turkey’s former ambassador to Japan, arrived in the U.S. on Sunday and officially took office on Monday.

Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. were badly strained in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 Lightning II jet program.

The U.S. argued that the system is incompatible with NATO systems and could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

The Russian-made S-300 system, for instance, has been sold to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.

The S-300 system, completed in 1978, is designed to defend against short- and medium-range air attacks and is considered one of the world’s most powerful air defense systems.

The U.S. has also primarily partnered with the YPG/PKK terrorist organization in northeastern Syria in the anti-Daesh fight. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the terrorist group’s presence in northern Syria, which has been a major sticking point in strained Turkey-U.S. relations. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.’ support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.

Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. While underlining that a country cannot support one terrorist group to fight another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.