Turkish Defence Minister Akar in Washington attempting damage control

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar traveled to the United States on Saturday to address a number of pending disputes between the two sides, most notably Ankara’s deal with Russia to purchase its S-400 missile defense system. Akar is scheduled to hold talks with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Sources said that they will also discuss Ankara’s purchase of the Patriot system and delivery of F-35 jets from Washington.

Earlier this month, the US halted the delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of the S-400 system. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of the Russian system that Washington has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

The US had agreed to sell 100 of its latest, fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Turkey, initially planning to deliver the two aircraft to Turkey in June. The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons.

Meanwhile, Washington continued its escalation against Ankara by underlining its travel advisory to its citizens wishing to head to the country. “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey,” warned a State Department statement.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas. Terrorists have also previously targeted Western tourists and expatriates.

“Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including US citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated. US citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey. Participation in demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey, as well as criticism of the government, including on social media, can result in arrest.

“The US government has very limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens traveling in Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli and Van, as the US government restricts its employees from traveling to specific provinces in these regions without prior approval,” said the statement.