Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said Russia’s S-400 air defense missiles are currently being prepared to be flown to Turkey.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for Bosnia, Erdogan wouldn’t say, however, when the Russian missile defense system would reach Turkey or where they will be deployed.
“The preparations for the journey, the loading (of the S-400) is continuing … The S-400 will arrive by planes. May it be beneficial for our country, our region and especially for the world,” Erdogan said.
The delivery of the systems is likely to deepen the crisis with the US, bringing Turkey closer to sanctions by the Trump administration.
Washington has repeatedly said it will cancel its own sale of its latest-generation F-35 stealth jets to Turkey if Ankara goes ahead with its purchase of the Russian-made S-400s.
Turkey plans to buy 100 US F-35s and its defense industry has plowed significant sums for the manufacture of the warplanes.
US officials have encouraged Turkey to buy the American-made Patriot missile defense system instead, but Erdogan has refused to pull back from the S-400 deal.
Last month, outgoing acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Ankara that Washington would expel Turkish pilots from US training on F-35 jets if it did not renounce the deal with Russia before July 31.
The US has also threatened to hit Turkey with sanctions if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal, though Ankara previously said it was prepared for any possible US measures.
But after meeting his US counterpart, Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan earlier this month, Erdogan said he had been assured there would be no sanctions.
Trump at the time blamed the previous administration of Barack Obama for failing to finalize a deal for Turkey to buy the American Patriot system instead of the S-400.