Turkish defense minister holds talks with U.S. counterpart on Thursday

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held talks with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd James Austin on Thursday, April 1.

The officials “exchanged views regarding regional security and bilateral defense cooperation” including the “significance of strategic relations”, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The talks come after Turkey took charge of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in January. NATO members decided to create the VJTF in 2014 in response to a changed security environment, including Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine and turmoil in the Middle East.

Akar had met with Ukrainian Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Oleksandr Syrskyi on March 23, during the commander's visit to Ankara, according to a statement released by the ministry. Syrskyi's Turkish counterpart Umit dundar was present at the meeting as well.

Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin today. During the phone call, views were exchanged regarding regional security and bilateral defense cooperation.

The Turkish readout also added that both ministers agreed on “solving pending issues based on the spirit of strategic partnership and spirit of Alliance”.

Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained for some time over a range of bilateral issues, including Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.

In February, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said deployment of the missiles was inconsistent with NATO membership.

The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry over the S-400 purchase under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in December. Imposing sanctions on Turkey does not comply with the spirit of alliance, Turkey's defense minister said in response.

The new administration under U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to reengage Turkey over the issue. But Ankara has repeatedly refused to give up the missiles.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken that the S-400s were “a done deal”.

Akar recently proposed finding a solution to the crisis on the basis of a similar compromised reached with Greece over the purchase of an earlier version of the missiles from Russia in the 1990s. So far, the S-400s still appear to be the biggest military and political issue between the two countries.

Turkish readout also said Akar “congratulated Secretary Austin again on his appointment as the Secretary of Defense”.

Akar, in February during an interview with the Turkish media stated that despite his congratulatory message to Austin for his appointment, he had not gotten any response.

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