Turkey to open 'Crete model' negotiations for use of S-400
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 3, 2021. (AA Photo)

Turkey will open discussions for the "Crete model" regarding the use of the S-400 missile system, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Tuesday.

Addressing reporters in the capital Ankara, Akar evaluated the tensions between Turkey and the United States over the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system.

"We will open negotiations for a model used for the S-300s in Crete," he said referring to Greece's use of the Russian S-300 missile system despite being a NATO member.

He also added that there are many NATO members, which were part of the Warsaw pact led by the Soviet Union, who continue to use Soviet-made defense systems and weapons.

Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. were badly strained in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the advanced S-400 Russian air defense system, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 Lightning II jet program.

The U.S. argued that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

However, the Russian-made S-300 system has been sold to 20 countries, including NATO member countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.

The S-300 system, completed in 1978, is designed to defend against short- and medium-range air attacks and is considered one of the world’s most powerful air defense systems.

In 1996, Greece signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-300s for deployment on Greek Cypriot soil.

These missiles could not be deployed in southern Cyprus as a result of Turkish pressure, but in 1998, they were deployed in Crete, whose strategic importance has been rising steadily.

Greece signed new agreements with Russia in 1999 and 2004 to purchase TOR-M1 and OSA-AKM (SA-8B) medium- and low-altitude air defense systems.

These Russian-made air defense systems are currently an integrated part of the air defense system of Greece and have also been deployed by the Greek Cypriot administration.

NATO, similarly to the U.S., argues that alternatives to the S-400s should be found. In October, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that it is a national decision what kind of defense capabilities different allies acquire. “But at the same time, what matters for NATO is interoperability and the importance of integrating air and missile defense, and that cannot be the case with a Russian system S-400,” he said.

Ankara has repeatedly stressed it was the U.S.' refusal to sell its Patriot missile systems that led it to seek other sellers, adding that Russia had offered a better deal, including technology transfers. Turkey even proposed setting up a commission with the U.S. to clarify any technical issues.