Turkey says Shanahan letter on F-35s not in line with spirit of alliance
WASHINGTON- Anadolu Agency
The language used in a letter sent from Washington to Ankara regarding Turkey's removal from the F-35 fighter jet program does not suit the spirit of alliance, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on June 12.
U.S. acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan's letter to his counterpart had outlined how Turkey would be pulled out of the F-35 fighter jet program unless Ankara changes course from its plans to purchase a Russian missile defence system.
Akar, cited by the defense ministry in a statement, also said Turkey is preparing a response to the letter and that it would be sent to the U.S. in the coming days. He added that he would hold a phone call with Shanahan on June 13.
He said the two sides could update each other on developments during the scheduled phone call.
His remarks came ahead of his meeting with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak at the Pentagon.
Shanahan said last week in a letter to Akar that the F-35 fighter jet training program for Turkish pilots would end July 31, giving the pilots enough time to complete their training. However, this action will cut things short.
"We've suspended some of the activities in terms of training. We haven't suspended any of the maintenance activity," he added.
But the Pentagon said June 11 that the U.S. Air Force has halted ongoing training of Turkish pilots on the F-35 before the end date for "safety" concerns.
The actions are the latest in a series of moves by the U.S. to try to remove Turkey from the F-35 program amid a standoff with its NATO ally over the purchase of Russian S-400 system.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase Russia's system.
U.S. officials argued it would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, but Turkey has emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Ankara said it was Washington's initial refusal to sell its Patriot missile system that led it to seek other offers, adding Russia offered a better deal that included technology transfers