Turkey has reiterated that purchase of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia that had caused a rift between the U.S. and Turkey is a done deal, signaling that Ankara may consider buying another defense system from its allies.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday that the S-400 agreement with Moscow cannot be annulled, adding that Ankara, however, needs further defense systems that could be purchased from the United States.
"The current deal is a done deal, I cannot cancel it, but I need more and I prefer to buy from my allies," Çavuşoğlu told reporters following the meeting with Pompeo in New York, where Çavuşoğlu paid a visit earlier in the week to attend the 8th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
In December 2017, Ankara agreed to buy two Russian-made S-400s in a deal worth over $2 billion. Turkish officials have repeatedly said that the purchase of the S-400 systems was made to fulfill the country's security needs. With the purchase of the S-400s, Ankara aims to boost its defense capabilities amid threats from PKK and Daesh terrorists at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq. Ankara has been disappointed with its NATO allies for their lack of cooperation in meeting its defense needs. On Oct. 25, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey would begin the installment of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in October 2019.
Relating to the issue, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told reporters on Monday that the Pentagon is in communication with the U.S. Congress to help offer alternatives to Turkey in lieu of the S-400 air defense systems. "We've got ongoing diplomatic discussions on that. We turned in our congressionally mandated report on the relationship with Turkey last Friday, Nov. 9, to Congress. We are in diplomatic discussions with Turkey to look for viable alternatives to the S-400. So, we are helping them to find alternatives along with Congress to the S-400 purchase. We are continuing to work with Turkey and continuing to work with Congress to try to find the alternatives," Pahon said. The U.S. has expressed concern that Turkey's planned deployment of the S-400s could risk the security of some U.S.-made weapons and other technology used by NATO, including the F-35 fighter jets. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on the issue that the member states have the sovereign right to make decisions regarding their military purchases. "As we've discussed with our Turkish counterparts, the S-400 purchase would have significant consequences or could have significant consequences for the U.S.-Turkey defense relationship. There is a lot of things that purchase comes along with," Pahon said.
FM: Turkey, US discussed the
return of jailed Turkish bankerÇavuşoğlu also told reporters during his trip to the U.S that Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former deputy general of Turkey's state-run lender Halkbank, could serve his remaining sentence in Turkey.
"There is also the situation of Hakan Atilla being se
nt to Turkey. As part of bilateral agreements, he can serve the rest of his sentence in Turkey. We also evaluated what could be done on this issue," the foreign minister said.
In May, a U.S. court sentenced Atilla to 32 months in prison for the violation of sanctions against Tehran, in a case that has strained ties between the two NATO allies.
Çavuşoğlu said there were two ongoing processes in the United States over Halkbank with one being run by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the other by the U.S. Treasury. Highlighting that Halkbank did not violate U.S. sanctions, Çavuşoğlu said that the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, were also behind this process.