Turkey’s S-400 purchase should not trigger U.S. sanctions, says defence minister

Turkey's  Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Monday said Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missile systems should not trigger U.S. sanctions because the country is not an adversary of Washington and remains committed to the NATO alliance, pro-government Sabah newspaper reported.

"Threats, ultimatums and deadlines are not constructive and contrary to the spirit of an alliance," the Turkish defence minister said while speaking at a conference in Washington.

The statements from Akar arrive as U.S. lawmakers continue to warn Ankara that its purchase of the Russian system could lead to U.S. sanctions and place Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 fighter jet programme at risk. Washington maintains that Ankara cannot have both the American fighter jets and Russian defence systems on grounds that it would be compromising on the security of the former. Washington has been persuading NATO-ally Turkey to buy Raytheon's Patriot defence systems instead.

Akar said that Turkey expected to remain not just a buyer of advanced F-35 stealth fighter jets, but also one of the partner countries involved in its production, despite warnings from Washington that it would be blocked from the F-35 project if it buys the Russian system. 

The United States earlier this month stopped shipping equipment related to the F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to Turkey, in what has been the first concrete step Washington has taken to block delivery of the jet to its NATO ally.

Turkey is carefully studying an offer from the United States to buy Patriot missile defence systems, the Turkish defence minister added.

Akar also stressed the need for the United States to respond to Turkey’s security concerns in neighbouring Syria and highlighted that Ankara is working with Washington on this matter, Islamist pro-government Yeni Akit newspaper reported.

Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın while speaking at the same conference highlighted that Ankara's decision on the S-400 system was not made hastily and move with history. 

"Our dialogue with Russia does not target a third country. We are a member of NATO. We value our strategic partnership with the United States. Turkey's removal from the F-35 programme will not be a punishment for Turkey, it will damage the programme [itself]," Kalın said.

The presidential spokesperson also said that Washington could not afford to lose Ankara as an ally and friend, recalling that U.S. President Donald Trump has set a targeted trade volume of $75 billion between the countries.

"How do you plan on doing this when there are threatening messages between two allies?" Kalın asked.

Turkey’s planned S-400 purchase and the F-35 fighter jet project are currently the most pressing of several problematic issues between the two NATO allies.