Turkey could ‘follow Iran’ and build NUCLEAR weapons – as President Erdogan vows he ‘won’t accept’ West stopping him.

TURKEY could follow Iran in pursuing nuclear weapons and wants to show the West it could build them at "any moment", experts have warned.

The comments come just weeks after President Erdogan said he would "not accept" being told by nuclear powers that Turkey could not develop its own programme.

 Turkey's President Erdogan could seek to build nuclear weapons in the coming years, experts have warned

Turkey's President Erdogan could seek to build nuclear weapons in the coming years, experts have warnedCredit: AP:Associated Press

 Speaking last month, Erdogan said he would 'not accept' being told by other powers that Turkey could not have nuclear weapons

Speaking last month, Erdogan said he would 'not accept' being told by other powers that Turkey could not have nuclear weaponsCredit: Alamy

The Turkish president has long suggested he thinks Turkey should develop nuclear weapons, but his plans have received renewed focus since a military operation in northern Syria but him into confrontation with Turkey's Nato allies earlier this month.

Speaking to the New York Times, former US deputy secretary of defence, John J. Hamre said: "The Turks have said for years that they will follow what Iran does.

“But this time is different. Erdogan has just facilitated America’s retreat from the region."

Turkish neighbour Iran has long denied developing nuclear weapons, but has long been suspected of wanting its own programme so as to enhance its regional influence.

Hamre continued: “Maybe, like the Iranians, [Erdogan] needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment."

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling AK Party in early September, Erdogan said: "Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two.

"But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept."

Jessica Varnum of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies added that it would take Turkey years to develop nuclear weapons, and that there would be a "huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pocketbooks of Erdogan’s voters".

CONDEMNED BY NATO ALLIES

Just weeks after making his comments, President Erdogan launched a ground offensive into northern Syria which he claimed was intended to clear the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the region.

The SDF is an ally of the US and other Western forces, and in recent years has led the ground campaign to combat Islamic State, but is considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish state because of its ties with Kurdish separatist groups within Turkey.

The operation was prompted by President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from the region, where they had previously been stationed in support of the Kurds.

It has so far led to the displacement of 130,000 people and the deaths of at least 70 civilians, and attracted international condemnation.

France, Germany, and the UK announced they would suspended all exports of arms to Turkey pending the end of the offensive.

The US also imposed £80 million worth of economic sanctions, including increased steel tariffs and a freeze on the assets of Turkish ministers.

On Thursday, Turkey and the SDF agreed to a 120-hour ceasefire to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from northern Syria, but reports over the weekend suggested violations of the ceasefire had begun to occur.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has today suggested President Trump is "fully prepared to undertake" military action against Turkey if necessary.

 Earlier this month, Turkey launched a ground invasion into northern Syria

Earlier this month, Turkey launched a ground invasion into northern SyriaCredit: AFP or licensors

 Erdogan said the operation was intended to clear US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces from the region

Erdogan said the operation was intended to clear US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces from the regionCredit: AP:Associated Press

 The move prompted international condemnation and has seen at least 70 civilians killed

The move prompted international condemnation and has seen at least 70 civilians killedCredit: AFP or licensors

 It has also left an estimated 130,000 people displaced

It has also left an estimated 130,000 people displacedCredit: EPA

 Erdogan agreed to a temporary ceasefire last week, but reports over the weekend suggested it had been violated

Erdogan agreed to a temporary ceasefire last week, but reports over the weekend suggested it had been violatedCredit: Getty - Contributor


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