Turkey stakes its claim over F-35 payment: Erdoğan
Turkey and the United States are in talks over the latter’s supply of warplanes the Turkish army needs after it was excluded from the F-35 joint fighter jet program, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, vowing that Turkey will certainly claim $1.4 billion it paid to the U.S. for the fifth-generation jet fighters.
“Of course, there are talks [with the U.S.] ongoing at a low level at the moment. But we will get our $1.4 billion one way or another. All this is being talked about,” Erdoğan told journalists on board a plane during his return from a three-nation African tour on Oct. 21.
Turkey was excluded from the F-35 joint fighter program in mid-2019 after it deployed the Russian S-400 air defense systems. The U.S. seized five F-35s Turkey had paid for and did not reimburse $1.4 billion. Recently, Turkey asked for the purchase of 40 F-16 fighters and 80 modernization kits for its existing planes in a bid not to weaken its air forces.
Erdoğan said Defense Minister Hulusi Akar would meet his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and discuss the matter directly. Both defense ministers are attending a two-day NATO meeting in Brussels. “I believe there will be progress,” Erdoğan said.
“We will talk on all these with [U.S. President Joe] Biden in Rome during the G20 meeting. I will ask ‘What are we doing, what is going on?’ We will not allow Turkey’s rights to be breached in any way,” Erdoğan stated.
Erdoğan and Biden are expected to meet either in Rome during the G20 meeting that will take place on Oct. 30 and 31 or in Glasgow during the Climate Change summit on Nov. 1 and 2. The White House has not yet confirmed the bilateral meeting between the two presidents.
Erdoğan slams 10 envoys
On a question, Erdoğan slammed the ambassadors from 10 Western countries who issued a statement for the release of businessman and activist Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars for four years although he has not been convicted. The statement followed a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which called on the Turkish government to free the activist.
“Why did these 10 ambassadors make this statement?” Erdoğan asked. “I told our foreign minister that we cannot have the luxury of hosting them in our country. Is it your place to teach such a lesson to Turkey? Who are you?”
“Do they release the bandits, murderers and terrorists in their country?” the president asked. “Your justice is independent and ours is not? Our justice is the best example of an independent judiciary.”
Operations continue in Syria
On a question about his recent statements on Syria after the YPG increased its attacks against Turkey and its troops in the northern part of the country, Erdoğan underlined that Turkey’s operations against key targets continue in the region.
“Absolutely, no concession. We are running the process in Syria. I don’t know what will be the attitude of the [Syrian] regime but we will continue to do whatever is necessary, especially against this approach in Idlib and respond with all our heavy weapons,” he said.
The Syrian regime has recently increased its attacks against the opposition targets in and around the Idlib enclave where Turkey has a sizeable contingent in line with a deal with Russia in March 2020.
Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting in late September and discussed how to find a permanent, fair and realistic solution to the problem in Syria.