No turning back from S-400 deal: Turkey
"We are not choosing between Russia and any other allies," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a NATO event in Washington hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank.
"WE ARE NOT CHOOSING BETWEEN RUSSIA AND ANY OTHER ALLIES"
"We don't see our relations with Russia as an alternative to our relations with others. And nobody, neither West nor Russia, should or can ask us to choose between," Çavuşoğlu said Çavuşoğlu is in Washington for the Meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which brings top diplomats from NATO countries to Washington. He arrived the same week the US announced it would suspend all "deliveries and activities" related to Turkey's procurement of F-35 jets because of Ankara's plans to purchase Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
Turkey decided in 2017 to purchase the S-400 system following protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the US with no success. Çavuşoğlu contends Turkey urgently needs an air defense system because of the "threat in the neighborhood" and said NATO is not yet capable enough to cover the country's airspace.
Washington has repeatedly cautioned Turkey against the purchase of the S-400 system, warning it might be used to covertly obtain critical information on the F-35, including its detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
In responding to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Çavuşoğlu said the system would be for Turkey's own use. "It doesn’t have to be integrated to the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use, this is a defense system," he said.
"This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s," the Turkish minister added. "Therefore we propose United States establish a technical working group to make sure that this system will not be a threat to F-35s nor NATO systems."
Turkey's foreign minister said the plans to purchase the S-400 system is "a done deal" and Donald Trump said he would take care of the F-35 deal. "Trump himself admitted on the phone that the US made the mistake not to sell Patriots to Turkey and he promised Erdoğan that he will take care of this issue," Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2002 and has invested more than $1.25 billion. It also manufactures various aircraft parts for all F-35 variants and customers. Turkish firms supply the F-35 program with key components, including airframe structures and assemblies and the center fuselages. Two F-35s already delivered to Turkey are currently at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Turkish pilots are being trained. These jets were scheduled to be transferred to Turkey in November.
A Pentagon official told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that Turkish pilots will continue to train with F-35 fighter jets in Arizona. Ankara is planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said he expects that they will be delivered.