Turkish FM denies delaying Russian S-400 deal
Turkey’s procurement of the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems are not going to be postponed or halted, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, noting that Ankara and Washington are continuing to exchange views to establish a committee to assess the impact of its purchase of the Russian missile defenses systems on the U.S. F-35 fighter jets.
“We are exchanging opinions on how this could work, we will continue to share our views. Once we agree on that, we will decide if there will be a working group or not,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters on May 15.
“The discussions are ongoing, there is nothing certain yet,” he said, adding, “If there will be a working group, we would like to carry on without any prerequisites. Let the experts decide. The US will accept our proposal of it is well-intentioned.”
On May 13, Reuters quoted anonymous sources familiar with the matter saying that the United States had asked Turkey to delay taking the delivery of the S-400 system, currently scheduled for July, in return for potentially approving the formation of the working group. “There is no such thing as postponing or canceling at this stage. It’s not on the agenda either,” he said.
Tensions between Turkey and the United States are running high over Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defenses, which are not compatible with NATO systems. U.S. officials say Turkey’s planned purchase would jeopardize its role in building F-35 fighter jets as well as its purchase of the aircraft, which Washington says would be compromised by the presence of the S-400s.
The U.S. and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons. Ankara says U.S. concerns are overstated and has been pushing Washington to establish a working group to assess the risks the system would be posing to the F-35 jet.
Meanwhile, a U.S. House of Representatives committee on May 15 released an early version of a spending bill that seeks to prevent the shipment of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. In this case, the measure would not allow any spending, for example, for fuel or pilots to fly the aircraft to Turkey. The appropriations committee’s bill forbids the use of federal funds to deliver F-35s to Turkey. The appropriations bill must pass the House of Representatives in order for the F-35 measure to become law.