Turkey vows to retain Russian missiles despite US sanctions

Turkey vows to retain Russian missile defence system despite US sanctions
3 min read
12 February, 2021
Turkey says it will not give up the Russian S-400 missile defence system despite the US saying it will impose sanctions as long as Turkey retains it.
Kalin said Turkey will retain the Russian S-400 system [Getty]
Turkey will not turn back on its acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defence systems despite US sanctions, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced on Thursday.

However, he added that Turkey would seek to resolve disputes with its NATO ally through dialogue.

Washington imposed sanctions on Ankara last December for acquiring the S-400 systems from Russia, on the grounds that they threaten its F-35 fighter jets and are incompatible with shared NATO defences.

Last week, the Biden administration said it wants Turkey to give up the Russian defence systems.

Turkey rejects this and says the systems will stand independently from NATO defences.

Ankara says it wants better US ties under Joe Biden’s administration and has proposed a joint working group on the S-400s. But Washington has vowed to continue sanctions while Turkey possesses them.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday that Ankara would propose only partially activating the S-400s in negotiations with the United States, according to local media.

In an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber, Kalin said that Akar's comments had been misunderstood, adding that talks were being held with Washington over issues of dispute, but that quick solutions to their differences should not be expected.

“The United States has so far said it will not engage in any negotiations over this issue. Turkey will not turn back from the Russian S-400 issue,” Kalin said.

“When we read the strategic picture the right way, we think we can make advances,” he said.

“By proposing solution ways, we will be in negotiations,” he added, without elaborating.

The United States also removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet programme, where Ankara was a manufacturer and a buyer, over the purchase of the S-400s from Russia in mid-2019.

Turkey has said the S-400s are a necessity, as it had no suitable alternatives from NATO allies.

In a phone call last week, marking the first official contact between the allies since Biden took office, Kalin told US national security adviser Jake Sullivan that the S-400 dispute needed resolving. Both the officials agreed to "establish strong, durable and constructive relations." 

On Thursday, Kalin said he and Sullivan had agreed to speak again in the coming days to specifically discuss their disagreements, adding that the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold talks in the coming days.

Turkey’s interior minister last week accused Washington of assisting a 2016 attempted coup against President Erdogan, accusations which the US State Department called “unfounded and irresponsible” in a statement.

Ankara previously expressed outrage at comments Biden made during his presidential campaign describing the Turkish president as an "autocrat," and suggesting that Washington should support the Turkish opposition.

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