Turkey rejects US pressure over Russian S-400 missile deal

Turkish foreign minister says Ankara will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system despite US sanctions threat.

Dress rehearsal of Victory Day Parade in Moscow
A launching vehicle of the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon system makes its way during a dress rehearsal of 2018 military parade in Moscow [File: Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s government on Friday rejected the US pressure over its missile deal with Russia, saying Ankara was already in talks over the delivery of the S-400 defence system.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has riled Turkey’s NATO allies, especially the United States, by purchasing the Russian missile and by drawing closer to Russia‘s President Vladimir Putin.

US officials have warned Turkey could face possible sanctions and a block on its participation in the US-made F-35 fighter jet programme because of the Russian deal.

“We have signed a deal with Russia, and this deal is valid. Now we are discussing the delivery process,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a press conference with his Russian counterpart in the Turkish city of Antalya.

“We have an agreement with Russia and we are bound by it,” he said, adding pressure from other countries was against international law.

Cavusoglu said Turkey had also met its obligations as a partner in the F-35 jet made by US company Lockheed Martin.

“Turkey is also a partner in the F-35 project. Some parts are being made in here in Turkey. Turkey has fulfilled its responsibilities in this regard,” the minister said.

The first Russian S-400 delivery is expected in July.

The dispute is one part of a growing rift between Washington and Ankara who are at odds over Syria and also a US refusal to extradite a US-based preacher Turkey blames for a 2016 failed coup.

In the latest sign of US pressure, four senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would block delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey until Ankara gives up the Russian missiles.

“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities,” said Republican Senator James Lankford in a statement on the bill.

“It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defence cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn.”

Turkey plans to buy 100 F-35s and some Turkish pilots already started training with counterparts in the US.

US officials say they are worried about technology from the S-400s allowing Moscow to collect data on NATO aircraft and about how compatible the Russia systems will be inside NATO operations.

US officials have increasingly warned about fallout from the missile deal for the F-35 jet programme and have pressured Turkey to buy US-made Patriot missile defences as an alternative.

Source: AFP