President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emphatically stated that it is out of the question for Turkey to step back from its deal to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
“We took a step, there is an agreement, and we are committed to it. It is out of the question for us to step back from the agreement,” he told reporters in Istanbul, referring to the S-400 deal with Moscow.
Washington and other Western NATO allies of Turkey have been unnerved pending the fast-approaching date when Turkey will receive the Russian S-400.
Turkey’s allies fear that the S-400 could pose a threat to the US F-35 fighter jets that Ankara also plans to buy, arguing that the Russian system is not compatible with the defense network of NATO.
Erdogan claimed that his government offered to set up meetings with the US to work together to solve the issue, but the press has still not been informed of the response from Washington.
Erdogan further claimed that the Turkish government has been negotiating an offer with the US to sell the Patriot missiles, but argued that the offer was not as good as the S-400 offer from Russia.
“Unfortunately, the United States has not given us an offer as good as the S400 deal,” Reuters reported, quoting the Turkish President.
The US threatened Turkey with imposed sanctions if they go ahead with the S-400 purchase deal with Russia. The S-400 system has advanced radars to defend airspace against warplanes that are used by countries in the western military alliance.
The treaty to buy the S-400 air defense system, which was signed by Ankara and Moscow in 2017, has stirred up conflict between the two NATO allies – Turkey and the US, as Washington expressed strong disapproval of the deal.
Previously, the US emphasized that Turkey cannot have the Russian S-400 air defense system and still be part of the F-35 program – a fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The US also halted the delivery of F-35 equipment to Turkey in late March in a move that was its first concrete step towards removing Turkey from the program.
Last week, Reuters cited two sources familiar with Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program, saying that Washington is considering the suspension of Turkish pilot training for the F-35 fighter jets as Ankara seems determined to continue with plans to buy the S-400 system, despite US disapproval.
Ankara is not only a buyer of the F-35 jets but also a production partner.