A Russian serviceman walks past S-400 missile air defence systems before a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow. File photo/ Reuters
Turkey bought S-400 missile defence systems from Russia to use them, not put them aside, the head of the Turkish Defence Industry Directorate said on Saturday, days after talks between President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.
Erdogan and Trump held talks in Washington on Wednesday to overcome increasing differences between the NATO allies, ranging from Syria policy to sanctions threats over Turkey's purchase of the S-400s, which Washington says pose a threat to its Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets.
Washington has warned that Ankara will face sanctions over its purchase of the S-400s, and has suspended Turkey from the F-35 programme, in which it was a customer and manufacturer. It has yet to impose any sanctions on Turkey, which began receiving the Russian systems in July.
In an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Ismail Demir said it was not logical for any country to purchase such systems only to put them aside, and added that Ankara and Washington aimed to tackle the issue.
“It is not a correct approach to say 'we won't use them for their sake' about a system that we bought out of necessity and paid so much money for,” Demir said. “We have allied relations with Russia and the United States. We have to go on and respect the agreements we signed,” he said.
On Wednesday, Trump urged Erdogan at the White House to drop the S-400 systems, but Erdogan later said Ankara could not harm its relations with Russia. He reiterated Turkey's desire to buy US Patriot defences in addition to the S-400s.
A top aide to Erdogan said on Friday that Turkish and US officials had begun working as part of a joint mechanism aiming to evaluate the impact of the S-400s on the F-35s.
Demir said the move showed an easing in the position of the United States, and added that Turkey was ready to take measures that will address US concerns over the S-400s after the talks.
“As a loyal friend and ally, we have said we were ready to take measures if there are any risks that we have overlooked on this issue,” Demir said. “We still believe we can find a middle ground on the S-400 issue, so long as both sides are open.”
Demir also said Turkish personnel were continuing their training on the S-400s in Russia, but added that there would be no Russian personnel coming to Turkey to operate the systems.
The first of the Russian S-400 defence systems that Ankara has purchased will be loaded on to cargo planes on Sunday and arrive in Turkey some time next week, privately-held broadcaster Haberturk reported.
Russia and Turkey are in talks about extra deliveries of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems to Ankara, the head of Russia’s defence sales agency said on Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported.
Russia hopes to seal a deal to supply Turkey with more S-400 missile systems in the first half of next year, the head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheev,
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