Turkey will not go back on its agreement to buy S-400 missile defence systems from Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday (6 March), adding that Ankara may subsequently look into buying S-500 systems.
NATO member Turkey has repeatedly said it is committed to buying the Russian missile defense system, despite warnings from the United States that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defence system.
The US State Department said on Tuesday that Washington had told Turkey that if it buys the S-400 systems, the United States will have to reassess Ankara’s participation in the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program.
In an interview with broadcaster Kanal 24, Erdoğan said it would be “immoral” for Turkey to turn back from its deal with Russia.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke his silence over a U.S. threat to punish Turkey with sanctions should it buy an advanced Russian S-400 missile-defense system https://t.co/rAb4My8RZ5
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) March 7, 2019
Erdoğan also said that Turkey could not accept control of a planned safe zone in northern Syria being given to anyone else. The US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia currently controls the area, but Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization.
Erdoğan added that if the United States could not take back the weapons it had given to the militia in Syria, it should give them to Turkey.
Washington has previously said the S-400 deal could jeopardize its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co Patriot missile package to Ankara and possibly result in US sanctions. But Erdoğan said it was a done deal.
“It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat,” Erdoğan said.
He said that Turkey was still open to buying Patriot systems from the United States but only if the conditions are suitable, and he added that Ankara may seek a deal to procure S-500 systems from Moscow later.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s allies should not interfere in Ankara’s purchase of defence systems from non-NATO countries.
On Monday, the US Trade Representative’s Office said it intends to end Turkey’s preferential trade treatment under a program that allowed some exports to enter the United States duty free.
Erdoğan said that the decision was “unhealthy” and wrong, adding that the United States should not try to discipline Turkey though trade measures.