Turkey can’t accept US impositions, needs both S-400 and F-35s, Erdoğan says

DAILY SABAH WITH REUTERS
ISTANBUL
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Turkey's foreign policy, as stated by officials in various platforms, is defined by multidimensional diplomacy, and so in supplying its defense needs, Turkey gets in touch with any partner it sees fit to carry out negotiations. While building such channels of dialogue, Turkey aims to maintain equally strong relations with other powers with which it develops military, economic and diplomatic ties. Thus, the country maintains a balance that helps it not be dependent on a single power.

In this regard, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday that Turkey needs both Russian-made S-400 air defense systems and U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, adding that it was not acceptable for the country to accept the U.S.' impositions.

In December, Turkey officially signed a $2.5 billion agreement with Russia for the S-400s – Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system. With the move, Turkey is set to become the first NATO member country to acquire the system. Turkey's interest in the Russian systems started due to Washington's indifferent attitude on technology transfer in the case of a possible purchase of the American-made Raytheon Patriot missiles. Turkish officials said in July that Ankara may consider buying Patriot missiles but it won't consider them as an alternative to the Russian S-400 system.

With the S-400s, Ankara aims to build Turkey's first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to boost its defense capabilities amid threats from PKK and Daesh terrorists at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.

"Turkey needs S-400 missiles and the deal is done, we will procure them as soon as possible," Erdoğan said at a graduation ceremony for non-commissioned officers in western Balıkesir province.

"Turkey, which is already a project partner, also needs F-35 fighter jets, its domestically-developed planes and planes developed with other countries. We have paid $900 million so far [for F-35's] and continue to pay as installments come due," Erdoğan added, but noted that the country would procure jets elsewhere if the U.S. halts the delivery of the F-35 fighter jets.

Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed the fact that ties with other countries are not seen as alternatives to one another and that Turkey's diplomacy is based on mutual advantage. As well as its diplomatic and economic ties, the country pursues this balance policy in meeting its defense needs.

The U.S. has expressed concern that NATO ally Turkey's planned deployment of the S-400s could risk the security of some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by Turkey, including the F-35s. The spat came at a time when the two allies are at odds over a number of issues, including the U.S.' support for the PKK terrorist group's Syrian offshoot the People's Protection Units (YPG), the extradition of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen and the arrest of American pastor Andrew Brunson who is being tried on terror and espionage charges.

Erdoğan said that the U.S. or other Western countries blocked arms sales with lame excuses when Turkey needed them, but start a row when the country wants to procure these weapons from elsewhere.

"Do you know what they were doing when [southern Turkish provinces] Kilis, Gaziantep, Reyhanlı and Kırıkhan were being attacked from Syria by 127 rocket, artillery or mortar attacks, and seven citizens lost their lives and 125 others were injured? They were pulling back air defense systems previously deployed in our country," he said.

"They gave away weapons that they did not sell to us with money to terror groups for free."

The president also said the Turkish lira was being targeted in an operation but that Turkey will overcome this attack and the currency volatility will pass.

He said Turkey was taking the necessary measures in response to the lira slide and it was starting to see concrete results from these steps.

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