Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview on Friday that he has started to discuss the possible purchase of Patriot missiles with US President Donald Trump, and will continue the talks at a meeting this month.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Erdogan said he had already raised the possible purchase in a phone call with the American leader two weeks ago, and that he will follow up on the matter when the two men are in New York later this month for the United Nations General Assembly.
The Patriot air defense system is meant to intercept both incoming aircraft and long-range ballistic missiles.
“I said no matter what package of … S-400s we get, we can buy from you a certain amount of Patriots,” Erdogan said.
“But I said we have to see conditions that at least match up to the S-400s,” Erdogan added.
“He [Trump] said, ‘Are you serious?’ I said: ‘Yes,’” Erdogan told the outlet.
The Turkish leader’s remarks came after defense ties between Turkey and Russia strengthened in defiance of Ankara’s NATO ally the United States.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned Turkey last week that Washington is considering imposing sanctions on the country over Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
Speaking with journalists, Mnuchin said that, while no decision has yet been made, the Trump administration is “looking at” penalizing its ally over that country’s importation of the missile batteries, whose presence in Turkey the US believes would compromise its F-35 stealth aircraft program and aid Russian intelligence.
Washington reacted to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system by kicking the country off its F-35 fighter jet program. Last month, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that Jerusalem had worked behind the scenes to ensure the US dropped Turkey from the program as part of its efforts to preserve its military qualitative edge in the region.
The US says Russia will be able to glean sensitive technical knowledge about the new fighter if it is operated alongside the S-400.
Turkey — which had ordered more than 100 of the F-35s for some $1.4 billion — has repeatedly dismissed claims the Russian system would be a danger to the American warplanes, and urged Washington to reverse its decision.
Earlier this month, Erdogan suggested Turkey could look to Russia for an alternative after its F-35 exclusion.
Erdogan also said in the interview that the European Union must provide Ankara with greater financial support for housing refugees from Syria, or he would allow them to continue on to the continent.
“If you can’t accept this business, we will open the gates. Let them go from there wherever they want,” he said.
Agencies contributed to this report.