Ankara Renews Vow to Counter Possible Non-Delivery of F-35s Over S-400 Purchase

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States is continuing efforts to discourage Turkey from purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy has warned that Ankara “will have to respond” to Washington’s possible suspension of delivery of the F-35 strike fighters to Turkey, according to the Hurriyet Daily News newspaper.

Aksoy slammed a recent US bill endorsed by “some US Senators” which specifically stipulates steps to keep Ankara from buying the F-35 warplanes, something that Aksoy said is “against the spirit of our alliance with the US.”

“In this bill, the F-35’s shipment is attributed to giving up the S-400 purchase. These are different issues. And one should not put apples and pears in the same basket. This is not a program managed solely by the US. It is a multinational program and we expect everybody to fulfill their obligations,” he said, stressing Ankara’s adherence to the program.

He recalled that Turkey’s position on the S-400 is clear and that “work is already underway to provide ourselves with a missile defense system.”

Aksoy pointed out that it’s only natural that Ankara had decided to purchase the S-400 system given that Turkey “could not get similar systems Europe and the US.”

His remarks come after the US House of Representatives called for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to require the Pentagon to report on the status of Ankara-Washington ties within 60 days. The new bill stipulates halting foreign arms sales to Ankara over its intention to buy Russia’s S-400 systems.

In late April, the Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Turkey could face US sanctions if it goes ahead with plans to purchase S-400 missile defense systems from Russia and that it could also affect Ankara’s participation in the F-35 program.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded by saying that Ankara would take retaliatory measures against Washington if it blocked the delivery of these jets. He also underlined that Ankara does not accept the language of sanctions in the discussion of deliveries of Russian S-400 air defense systems with its NATO partners.

Speaking at a joint press conference after talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Ankara earlier in April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that “the S-400 deal is made, and this matter is closed.” Putin, for his part, pointed out that Moscow and Ankara had agreed to speed up the delivery of the S-400 systems to Turkey.

Russia and Turkey clinched a loan deal on Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in December 2017.

The agreement stipulates that Russia will supply Turkey with four batteries of S-400s; the missile launch systems will be maintained by Turkish personnel. The initial delivery of the batteries is scheduled for the first quarter of 2020.

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