Calling it a ‘tough situation’, President Trump says US won’t sell fighter jets to Ankara after its Russian purchase.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey will turn elsewhere for fighter jets if the United States does not sell it the F-35 aircraft, adding that Ankara planned to start using the Russian S-400 missile defence system in April 2020.
The US said last week it was removing NATO ally Turkey from the F-35 programme, as long threatened, after Ankara purchased and received Russian S-400 missile defence systems that Washington sees as a threat.
The US has also threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey, although Ankara has dismissed the warnings.
Speaking publicly about strained ties with the US for the first time in 11 days, Erdogan said on Friday that a decision by Washington to cut Ankara from the F-35 programme would not deter it from meeting its needs.
“Are you not giving us the F-35s? OK, then excuse us but we will once again have to take measures on that matter as well and we will turn elsewhere,” Erdogan told a gathering of his Justice and Development Party in the capital, Ankara.
Erdogan said he hoped US officials would be “reasonable” on the question of sanctions, adding that Turkey may also reconsider its purchase of Boeing aircraft from the US.
“Even if we’re not getting F-35s, we are buying 100 advanced Boeing aircraft, the agreement is signed … At the moment, one of the Boeing planes has arrived and we are making the payments, we are good customers,” he said.
“But, if things continue like this, we will have to reconsider this.”
Referring to the S-400, Erdogan said: “In the coming spring, God willing in April 2020, we will be able to start using this system.”
The US says Russia will be able to glean sensitive technical knowledge about the new F-35 fighter if it is operated alongside the S-400.
Russia’s Rostec state conglomerate said Russia would be ready to supply its SU-35 jets to Turkey if Ankara requested them.
But Turkish officials said on Thursday there were no talks with Moscow on alternatives to the F-35 jets for now.
Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over a host of issues. Turkey has also been infuriated with US support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, a main US ally in the region that Ankara sees as a “terrorist” organisation.
Turkey and the US have held talks this week on establishing a buffer zone in northern Syria to prevent clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
Ankara has warned that it would launch a military operation in northern Syria to wipe out the YPG if it could not agree with Washington on the planned safe zone in the region, saying it had run “out of patience”.
However, Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey was determined to destroy the “terror corridor” east of the Euphrates river in Syria no matter how talks on the safe zone conclude, as Ankara ramped up its threats of an offensive.