Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE) - Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systemsis a "done deal" and cannot be canceled, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday in Washington.
The United States and Turkey have been in dispute over Ankara's decision to purchase the S-400s. NATO and the US say that their complaint is that the Russian system is not compatible with NATO systems. The real fear is that the system would make Turkey independent of the US because it would guarantee Turkish air space.
There have been threats and counter threats. Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey against going ahead with its planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, hours after the Turkish foreign minister said the acquisition was "a done deal."
"We've also made it clear that we'll not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries, weapons that threaten the very cohesion of this alliance," Pence said Wednesday while addressing the "NATO Engages" summit in Washington, DC.
"Turkey's purchase of a $2.5 billion S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia poses great danger to NATO and to the strength of this alliance," he added, saying that Turkey could face consequences for its action.
In reply the Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has said that the U.S. must choose between remaining Turkey's ally and siding with terrorists, "The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey's ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally's defense against its enemies?" Oktay said on Twitter.
The US side has threatened to refuse to sell the latest F35 fighter jets. This is something of an empty gesture as the F35 is the subject of serious production difficulties and is very expensive. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop the Turkish government buying the Russian equivalent, the Sukhoi SU-35 which is as good and a lot cheaper.
Washington has urged Turkey to purchase Raytheon Co Patriot defense systems instead of the S-400s, but Ankara has said that, even though it would like to make such a deal, it would only be possible if the right terms were agreed upon.
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of a visit to the United States, Cavusoglu said Turkey would like to purchase the Patriot systems, but it would not back out of its deal with Russia.
"We have told them I don't know how many months ago or years ago that it's a done deal, so we cannot cancel it," Cavusoglu said.
He said Turkey had received a new offer for the Patriot systems from the United States, which included prices and delivery dates, but added that they would negotiate.
However, Cavusoglu said the United States could not guarantee it would be able to sell the Patriot systems to Ankara due to an impasse in the U.S. Congress.
"The real problem is this: even today, the United States cannot give guarantees about selling the Patriots to Turkey. Can they give them tomorrow? They can’t guarantee it. Then who will meet my needs?" he said.
On Wednesday, Cavusoglu said Turkey had proposed forming a working group with the U.S. administration to ensure that the S-400 poses no threat to U.S. or NATO military equipment. He added that both the administration and Turkey should explain to the Congress why Turkey bought the S-400s.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey's relations with Russia were not an alternative to its alliances with NATO or its partnerships and ambitions with the European Union."We made our choice a long time ago, and now we need to have good relations with everybody and we have to balance that," he said. "We don't have to choose between this and that, but we have already made our decision and became a NATO ally."
Turkey is due to take delivery of the S400 units in July. Relations with the United States have been soured by strong suspicions that President Obama’s administration was behind the coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016. Equally few believe that Turkey’s present currency difficulties are solely due to the normal ups and downs of economic life.