Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US did not misrepresent or fabricate details about a meeting he held Wednesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, as tensions escalate between the NATO allies.
“Stand by every word of it,” Pompeo said Thursday in a direct rebuttal to Turkey’s claim Wednesday that a US statement about the meeting “not only fails to reflect the content of the meeting, but also contains matters that were not even raised during the said meeting.”
The US readout of that meeting could pass for a list of irritants in Washington’s relationship with Ankara. The State Department said Pompeo had warned against unilateral Turkish military action in Syria, called for the “swift resolution of cases involving unjustly detained US citizens,” including local staff from the US consulate in Istanbul, and raised his concerns about Turkey’s potential acquisition of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
Asked about the Turkish claims on Thursday, at the close of a meeting of NATO members, Pompeo said, “I reread, I saw the comments by my Turkish counterpart. I reread the readout of our meeting. Spot on. Stand by every word of it.”
“I think the Turkish Government understands the American position quite clearly,” Pompeo said. “I think I heard the vice president speak to that yesterday as well. Our position hasn’t changed. There’s great opportunity for the United States and Turkey to work closely together, and I had a good, long conversation with my, with the Turkish foreign minister yesterday and I’m very confident we’ll find a path forward.”
Pompeo spoke at the close of a meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the 29-member trans-Atlantic alliance, touching on threats from Iran and Chinese technology giant Huawei – repeating his threat that the US may not share intelligence with countries that buy its equipment – as well as the situation in Venezuela.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had agreed on “a package of measures to improve our situational awareness” and to step up support for Georgia and Ukraine with training for their maritime forces and coast guards, port visits and exercises, and information sharing.
The alliance also called for Russia to end its annexation of Crimea, release Ukrainian sailors and ships seized in a 2018 confrontation, and adhere to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
Turkey’s planned purchase of the $2.5 billion S-400 anti-aircraft missile system has become a particular point of tension.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey against going ahead with the purchase of the Russian-made missile system, hours after the Turkish foreign minister said the acquisition was “a done deal” and that Turkey wouldn’t back down.
Speaking Wednesday at the NATO Engages summit in Washington, Pence said the weapons purchase could “threaten the very cohesion of this alliance.”
‘We’ll not stand by’
“We’ve also made it clear that we’ll not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries,” Pence said.
US officials have long warned Turkey that it would not be allowed to acquire the F-35 stealth jet if it goes ahead with the missile system purchase. The US believes that the Russian system is incompatible with the F-35 jet and says Moscow could use it to gather intelligence on the aircraft.
On Monday the Pentagon announced it would halt all F-35 equipment transfers to Turkey unless Ankara irrevocably abandoned plans to acquire the S-400 system.
“Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner of the most successful military alliance in the history of the world? Or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” Pence said Wednesday.
His comments drew a sharp response from his Turkish counterpart, who issued an ultimatum of his own, demanding the US end its support for Kurdish groups in Syria who have fought ISIS.
“The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey’s ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally’s defense against its enemies?” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote on Twitter.
Pompeo also said Thursday that the US had shared its risk analysis on Chinese technology from the telecom giant Huawei and reiterated that the US would not be able to share information with countries that use that technology in their security systems.
“There is undoubtedly the risk that NATO or the United States will not be able to share information in the same way it could if there were not Chinese systems inside of those networks, inside of those capabilities,” Pompeo said. “We’ve done our risk analysis in the United States; we have now shared that with our NATO partners, with countries all around the world.”
“They understand the concerns, not our concerns, but the factual concerns associated with companies so deeply connected to their own government who would be willing to act at the behest of their government, the risk that that presents to information management,” he continued.
“And we’ve made clear that if the risk exceeds the threshold for the United States, we simply won’t be able to share that information any longer,” Pompeo said. “Our task is to do education, make sure they understand every sovereign nation that will make its own decision, and then the United States will make its decision.”
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.