US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Turkey’s position on the S-400 systems has not changed, although the United States seems to be trying to seduce Ankara with support in Syria in exchange for refusing a controversial deal to acquire Russian anti-aircraft missile systems, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
“The preconditions cannot be called acceptable when the ally is in a difficult situation, in a very difficult situation, as in the current situation in Idlib,” Cavusoglu said during a webinar organized by the Atlantic Council and the Turkish Organization “Heritage” (Turkish Heritage Organization).
Earlier this month, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed a package of measures to help Turkey conduct military operations in northeastern Syria, provided that Ankara will abandon the Russian anti-aircraft missile systems, which, according to her, “They do not allow us to transfer (to Turkey) certain equipment to fight against Syrian aggression.”
Turkey’s acquisition of the two Russian-appointed S-400 divisions continues to be a source of friction between the two NATO allies. In early March, US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said the C-400 issue caused a split among US officials regarding the provision of additional assistance to Turkey in rebel-held areas of Syria.
And this is why it is important: Ankara and Washington cannot agree on the S-400 issue. According to the United States, these systems pose a threat to NATO’s air defense, and are also capable of casting doubt on the safety of American stealth F-35 fighters. The United States threatened to impose sanctions in response, and also expelled Turkey last July from the joint strike fighter program.
Although the large-scale Sanctions against America’s Enemies of America (CAATSA) law passed in 2017 provides for the introduction of financial punitive measures against countries that have joint projects with the Russian military, the Trump administration has refrained from imposing sanctions on Turkey due to its acquisition of S-400 systems.
Amid the escalation of the crisis in Idlib province earlier this year, Turkey asked NATO allies for help at the time of the offensive operation by the Syrian regime, supported by Russia, in which dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee north towards the closed Turkish border.
Ankara, which supports some opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, demanded in February that the United States deploy a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system on Turkey’s southern border to protect Turkish soldiers. Cavusoglu on Tuesday confirmed that his country is ready to buy them if a “good offer” is made by the United States, but the Pentagon will agree to this option only if Turkey returns S-400 systems to Russia.
“We prefer to buy from our allies. But if there is no such possibility, I have to resort to alternative options, ”Cavusoglu said.
S-400 complexes, the first divisions of which were delivered to Turkey in July 2019, have not yet been commissioned. Chavushoglu did not say whether the Russian military equipment, as planned, will be put into operation later this month.
After the summit with the Russian counterpart on March 5 this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, in accordance with the existing plan, will be fully deployed in April.
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