Turkey will never retreat on its deal to buy Russian S-400 missile defense systems, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday.
“We will never take a step back [on the S-400s],” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk in the capital Ankara.
“We will continue our dedication in order to be an independent and free nation,” Cavusoglu said.
His remarks came after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey has already bought the Russian S-400 system and is set to take delivery next month.
Cavusoglu stressed that if the U.S. takes negative steps towards Turkey, Ankara would have counter measures.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have risen in recent months over Ankara purchasing the system, which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program and could trigger congressional sanctions.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
On violations of the cease-fire in Idlib, Syria, Cavusoglu said any excuse from Russia is “unacceptable,” as it is supposed to be a guarantor of the peace.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone, including a Syrian regime attack Thursday which left three Turkish soldiers slightly injured.
Turning to Greek Cyprus’ unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cavusoglu called any agreement excluding Turkey “invalid.”
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and Ankara has a right to hydrocarbon drilling activities as well.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara intervened as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.