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US threatens Turkey, others with more sanctions over new purchases of Russian weapons

WASHINGTON DC, USA: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Turkey and all US allies on Wednesday to refrain from making further purchases of Russian weaponry, saying this could trigger more sanctions.

US-Turkish relations have been strained over issues ranging from Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems — over which it was the target of US sanctions — to policy differences over Syria, human rights and a US court case targeting Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank.

“It’s also very important going forward that Turkey, and for that matter all US allies and partners, avoid future purchases of Russian weaponry, including additional S-400s,” Blinken said at a virtual event at Washington’s Foreign Press Center.

“Any significant transactions with Russian defence entities, again, could be subject to the law, to CAATSA, and that’s separate from and in addition to the sanctions that have already been imposed,” he said, referring to the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, which is designed to dissuade countries from buying military equipment from the NATO foe.

Blinken also said that given President Joe Biden’s widely-known views, his declaration on Saturday that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide should not have come as a surprise.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said Biden’s declaration was “simply outrageous” and Turkey would respond over the coming months.

Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the US were badly strained in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the advanced S-400 air defence system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 Lightning II jet program. The US argued that the system was incompatible with NATO systems and could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified information on the 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.

Back in December, the US decided to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of Russian-made missile defence systems.

Last Saturday, Biden called the events of 1915 a “genocide,” breaking with American presidents’ long tradition of refraining from using the term.

Biden’s remarks came in a customary statement on the anniversary, a day after speaking with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Biden is said to have acknowledged during the conversation that he planned to go ahead with the statement and was seeking to placate the expected uproar from NATO ally Turkey.

After the remarks, the Turkish nation stood united against the misrepresentation of history, as citizens from all political views flocked to social media platforms to express their anger. The Turkish government and opposition parties have also stood united against Biden’s move.

Erdoğan on Monday following a Cabinet meeting, called upon US authorities to come to Turkey and “inspect the evidence with regards to 1915.”

“I am speaking based on evidence, unlike Biden. We have over 1 million documents related to the 1915 events in our archives. I am wondering how many documents the United States has,” he said.

“Armenian gangs, who numbered at least 150,000 to 300,000 people, carried out massacres in Turkish territory. Furthermore, they partnered with Russian forces to fight against us. The Ottoman authorities took precautions,” he said, underlining the crimes perpetrated by Armenian gangs at the time.

Erdoğan once again voiced Turkey’s proposal to set up a joint history commission.

Turkey’s position on the 1915 events is that the death of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties, added to by massacres committed by militaries and militia groups on both sides.