US general Scaparotti doubles down on sale of F-35 jets to Turkey
WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
While Turkey is an important NATO ally, Washington should not supply Ankara with F-35 fighter jets if it accepts Russia's S-400 missile defense system, the top U.S. commander in Europe said on March 13.
U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, made the remarks while testifying at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee alongside Kathryn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
He noted, however, that he is talking to Turkish officials every day on this issue.
"I know their leaders very well. Our intent is to maintain them as an important NATO ally into the future,” he added, referring to Turkey.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, however, has stressed that Ankara purchasing S-400s from Russia is "not a choice, but a necessity".
He noted that Turkey sees the PKK and its Syrian affiliate the YPG as the same terrorist organization, which poses a problem for the U.S.
However, he said EUCOM works closely with Turkey to help secure its borders and counter the PKK and the threats the terrorist organization poses to Turkish citizens as well as the 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
"I am concerned about the Balkans. We've seen an increased malign influence there in the past year," he said, stressing that Moscow is involved in many malicious activities, including elections across Europe.