Turkey faces another stern warning from its NATO ally, the United States, which is calling for the country to abandon purchasing a Russian S-400 anti-missile system.
The weapon is an alternative to the American Patriot system already installed in the country.
“Turkey must choose,” US Vice President Mike Pence said at a NATO event on Wednesday in Washington.
“Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” added Pence.
“We’ve also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries that threaten the cohesion of our alliance,” Pence said.
Considering the Turkish government’s S-400 deal as a threat to American military equipment in the alliance, Washington has been using American F-35 fighter jets as a trump, halting the delivery of the jet equipment to Turkey this week.
This was the first concrete step by the US to force Turkey to cancel a deal with Moscow.
Pence’s remarks came hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency that Ankara does not have to choose between Russia and the US.
Joining a NATO event in Washington on Wednesday, Cavusoglu argued that purchasing Russian missile system and American fighter jets are two different issues.
“We don’t see our relations with Russia as an alternative to our relations with others. And nobody, neither the West nor Russia, should or can ask us to choose between,” he said.
Cavusoglu pays an official visit to Washington to join the Meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which gathers top bureaucrats from the alliance.
Turkey announced the purchase of the S-400 system in 2017, seen as a move to approach Moscow, while at the same time challenging its NATO ally.
Ankara claims their efforts to buy the American Patriot system were protracted and it urgently needs an air defense system due to threats from neighboring countries such as Syria and Iraq.
Washington says S-400 system is not compatible with NATO military equipment.
Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara’s plan to purchase the Russian system is “a done deal.”
Washington had warned Ankara recently that continuing with the Russian deal could result in US sanctions. American administration threatened Turkey to exclude the country from its F-35 fighter jet program.
Ankara is planning to buy 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US according to officials.