Erdogan says he expects delivery of Russian S-400s to start in July
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Erdogan says he expects delivery of Russian S-400s to start in July

After Putin talks, Turkish president gives indication of timeframe for missile defense system’s arrival, which may lead to Washington kicking Ankara out of F-35 fighter jet program

S-400 Triumf missile defense system at the Russian Hmeimin military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015. (Paul Gypteau/AFP)
S-400 Triumf missile defense system at the Russian Hmeimin military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015. (Paul Gypteau/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects Russia to begin delivering the S-400 missile defense systems in the first half of July, the Reuters news agency reported on Sunday, citing Turkey’s NTV.

Turkey’s push to buy the S-400 system has strained relations between the NATO allies, with the US worried it could give Russia access to sensitive technical knowledge if operated alongside its fighter jets. The country faces potentially crippling economic sanctions if it goes ahead with the purchase.

“We discussed the S-400 subject with Russia. Indeed the S-400 issue is settled,” Erdogan reportedly told journalists on his plane returning from a visit to Tajikistan, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think they will start to come in the first half of July,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, arrive to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 15, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday warned that Ankara would respond if the US slaps sanctions on the country over the plan to purchase the system.

“If the United States takes any negative actions toward us, we will also take reciprocal steps,” Cavusoglu said on the possibility of sanctions, according to a translation by Reuters of an interview that aired on Turkish TV.

Cavusoglu said Thursday his country won’t bow to “ultimatums” after the US warned Turkey it could exclude it from the F-35 fighter jet program over the purchase the Russian defense system.

US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a letter to his Turkish counterpart last week that the training of Turkish pilots will end July 31 and that Turkey wouldn’t be allowed to take final possession of the four F-35 aircraft it bought.

Shanahan also warned that Ankara’s purchase of the Russian system could hamper America’s future relationship with Turkey, a NATO member which has been a critical US partner and base for combat operations, including the war in Syria.

An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House on June 12, 2019, in Washington DC (Eric Baradat/AFP)

Speaking to reporters at a joint news conference with his French counterpart, Cavusoglu reiterated that the S-400 deal had been concluded and that Turkey would take delivery of the S-400 missiles.

He said: “Turkey won’t reverse its decision with such letters.”

He repeated an offer to set up a joint working group to resolve US concerns, saying US President Donald Trump looked favorably on the idea but that it was rejected by “some institutions” in the US.

In a phone call, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Shanahan that the letter’s wording was “inappropriate and not in line with the spirit of [NATO],” according to a ministry statement.

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