ISTANBUL: Turkey’s leader says his country is considering buying a second Russian missile system despite strong objections by NATO ally the United States.
In an interview with American broadcaster CBS News, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would make decisions on its defence systems independently.
Speaking to correspondent Margaret Brennan in New York last week, Erdogan explained that Turkey was not given the option to buy American-made Patriot missiles and the US had not delivered F-35 stealth jets despite receiving a payment of $1.4bn.
NATO member Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and its defence officials sanctioned after it bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system.
The US strongly objects to the use of Russian systems within NATO and says it poses a threat to the F-35s. Turkey maintains the S-400s can be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.
Last year, the US sanctioned Turkey for its purchase under a 2017 law aimed at pushing back Russian influence. The move was the first time the law called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was used to penalise an American ally.
However, Erdogan has remained defiant.
“Of course, of course, yes,” he said, after stating Turkey would make its own defence choices, in response to Brennan’s question on whether Turkey would buy more S-400s.
Before departing New York, Erdogan told journalists that relations with President Joe Biden had not started well despite what he called his good work with previous US leaders during his 19 years at Turkey’s helm.
“I cannot honestly say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as saying Thursday.
Erdogan also told Turkish media Turkey would buy new missile defence systems if needed and that it was already developing its own.
The issue is one of several sticking points in Turkish-American relations that also include US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who Turkey considers “terrorists”, and the continued US residency of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader and businessman accused of plotting the coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 29. (Int’l News Desk)