Erdogan: No backtrack from S-400 deal with Russia

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey will take delivery of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system in July – a deal that has created tensions with the United States.

“The issue of S-400 is an issue directly related to our sovereignty and we will not backtrack from that. God willing, the delivery of the S-400 will start next month,” Erdogan said in a televised speech,restatinghis unwavering stance.

Turkey has plans to buy 100 American-made F-35 fighter jets, and has lucrative contracts to build parts for the jets. The United States says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s systems and are a security threat to its own F-35 programme.

Washington has threatened to impose sanctions on Ankara and prevent Turkey from purchasing the F-35s.

“In order to meet its security needs, Turkey … does not need to get permission, let alone bow to pressure,” said Erdogan.

Russia has also said it planned to deliver its S-400s to Turkey in July.

Erdogan has vowed to use his good relations with US counterpartDonald Trumpto defuse tensions when they meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, later this week.

The United States cannot allow Turkey to fly or help produce its F-35 stealth jets if Ankara goes ahead with the purchase of the Russian air defence system, the US envoy to NATO said on Tuesday.

“There will be a disassociation with the F-35 system, we cannot have the F-35 affected or destabilised by having this Russian system in the [NATO] alliance,” Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters.

Deteriorated ties

The Turkish foreign minister said on Monday that Ankara did not fear US sanctions over the S-400 deal.

“Regardless of whatever sanctions there may be, whatever the messages from America, we’ve bought the S-400,” Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in the capital.

“If there’s an attack on Turkey tomorrow, we cannot expect NATO to protect us because NATO’s capacity would only protect 30 percent of Turkey’s airspace,” Cavusoglu said.

Relations with Washington have deteriorated in recent years over various issues including the S-400 deal, and US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters viewed as “terrorists” by Turkey.

Earlier in the month, US officialsannouncedthat Washington had halted the training of Turkish pilots on F-35 fighters at an airbase in the US state of Arizona.

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