S-400 deployment to resume as Erdoğan meets Putin in Moscow
Turkey has announced the beginning of the deployment of the second battery of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia on the same day President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Aug. 27 over the recent developments in the Idlib province of Syria.
“Activities with regard to the shipment of the second battery (of the S-400s) will start tomorrow,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told journalists in the eastern province of Erzincan on Aug 26.
The first batch of the S-400s was delivered in July at Mürted Air Base near Ankara in accordance with the Ankara-Moscow deal on the sale of the anti-ballistic missile systems in April 2017. The shipment of the second batch of the air defense systems is scheduled to be accomplished in several weeks, and the S-400s will be ready to use by April 2020.
“Our objective is to provide protection to our country and our nation against missile threats from outside of our country,” Akar said.
Turkey has stood firm against the pressure imposed by the United States to cancel the S-400 deal with Russia at the expense of ruining its ties with its NATO ally. After earlier attempts to purchase Patriot air defense systems from the U.S. were unfruitful, Turkey’s urgent security concerns stemming from Syria obligated Turkish government officials to strike a deal with the Russians. The U.S. has said it has discontinued Turkish participation in the F-35 aircraft program and said it won’t deliver four aircrafts Turkey has already paid for.
The second phase of the S-400 shipment begins on the same day President Erdoğan and President Putin are set to hold talks in the Russian capital on Aug 27.
Erdoğan-Putin to discuss Idlib
The two leaders had agreed to meet during a phone conversation last week as Erdoğan expressed his concerns over the intensified military operations by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in the de-militarized province of Idlib.
Turkey and Russia agreed to create a de-escalation zone in the province in September 2018 with the former establishing 12 observation posts inside the enclave and the latter, outside Idlib.
The main objective of the Turkish-Russian deal was to avoid a major military operation by the Syrian army into the highly populated Idlib province and thus a major humanitarian tragedy and a fresh influx of refugees.
Turkey has begun strengthening its observation posts, particularly No. 9 in Morek and No. 8, because of the increased attacks by the Syrian army. A Turkish convoy bound for Morek was hit last week and three civilians were killed in the attack.
Turkey has strongly condemned the aggression and said it will retaliate in kind should the attacks against its troops continue. It has also called on Russia to convey the message to Damascus.
It’s expected that the two presidents will discuss the developments in Idlib in a comprehensive way in order to avoid the collapse of the September 2018 deal on the province. Russia would renew its calls on Turkey to push all the jihadist terror groups away from the Idlib as Putin complained that the terrorists have increased their influence in the province from 50 percent to 90 percent in the last period.
President Erdoğan is also expected to inform the Russian president about the Turkish-American efforts to set up a safe zone in the eastern part of the Turkish-Syrian border.
“We are in close consultations with Russia on this issue,” Erdoğan said in a public address in Malazgirt, a province in eastern Anatolia. “I am going to Moscow tomorrow with a delegation.
“I am confident that we will be able to overcome this difficulty (stemming from) Idlib,” Erdoğan said.