Erdoğan: S-400 deal with Russia in delivery stage
Mehmet Soysal - MOSCOW
Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 air defense systems is in its delivery stage, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, reiterating Ankara’s stance on the issue despite a rising opposition from its NATO ally United States.
“The agreement concerning the S-400 [missiles] is a done deal, we are today at the point of delivery. The calendar for deliveries is proceeding and they will come in accordance with this calendar, as it was declared earlier,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists aboard a presidential plane on his way back to Turkey from a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on April 8.
Turkish ministers are frequently facing questions on the S-400 issue, the president noted.
“We tell them that this issue is finalized and everything is ready,’” he said.
Washington last week reportedly suspended Turkey’s participation in the ongoing F-35 fighter-jet program, in which Turkey has invested over $1 billion as a recent tool to force Turkey to step back from buying Russian systems. However, Pentagon said on April 4 that transfer of one of Turkey’s two F-35 jets to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona was delivered to Turkish pilots for training, in addition to two other jets delivered last year.
“Trainings continue,” Erdoğan said, adding that a team of four pilots were taking part in the mission under a brigadier general.
“There are no negative statements over the F-35s today,” Erdoğan said, adding that Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who met with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo last week, recently held talks on the issue.
Erdoğan also said highlighted that NATO’s stance is different than that of the U.S.
“The secretary-general of NATO has made his statements on the matter,” Erdoğan said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said while addressing reporters at an event to mark the transatlantic alliance’s its 70th anniversary in the U.S. capital on April 4 that Turkey’s procurement of Russian surface-to-air missile defense system is a “national decision.”
“We see that this is an issue which has created disagreement between allies, and NATO provides a platform for allies to address issues like this,” Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying.
“Bu unfortunately, some – and you would possibly guess who they are – speak of the joint production and technology, which is another important issue, and say that ‘They would not open the gate for joint production to you, they wouldn’t give you the technology.’ And our response to them is this: We have done the deal. All these are written on paper. We have taken this step. We are proceeding with our way.”
“This is under our authorization. Turkey is an unconditionally sovereign country with its state and nation. And it won’t share it with anyone,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t a strong member of NATO have strong air defense systems?” Erdoğan asked.
Separately, Erdoğan said he also talked about the recent developments in Syria with Putin.
“The leading matter there is Idlib,” Erodğan said, adding that “Russia also has problems with some terror groups there.”
“As Turkey, we make our warnings and take all precautions in means of intelligence and military, and we will keep doing so. But our struggle against terrorism in the same region is also continuing. We cannot place YPG at any point there,” Erdoğan said, referring to the Syrian arm of the outlawed PKK, a group listed as terrorist by Turkey, the U.S. and EU.
Turkey criticizes the U.S. for cooperating with the YPG on the ground and supporting it.
“There are some circles that still claim that the YPG is not an arm of the PKK. There is no such a thing. First of all, the YPG is a very open side arm of the PKK, and it is a terrorist organization, too,” the president said, slamming the U.S. on the matter.
“We have no problems with the Kurds. Our matter is with the terrorist organization. And this organization does not have concern of representing Kurds, our citizens or friends.”