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US ‘blackmails’ Turkey into scrapping S-400 deal with Russia: Minister

Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli has slammed as “blackmail” Washington’s pressure on Ankara to scrap its finalized deal with Russia to purchase the S-400 air defense missile systems.

“Such a demand goes beyond any permissible norms of diplomacy and trade relations. The fulfillment of this demand is unacceptable. The situation can be characterized as blackmail,” Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quoted  Canikli as saying on Thursday.

According to the Defense News web portal, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Thomas Goffus told a panel at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank on Wednesday that Turkey’s plan to buy S-400 missiles “is not helpful” and that Washington’s “preference is that they do not acquire S-400.”

The S-400 system, whose full name is the Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS), is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.

On April 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of S-400 missile systems. The delivery is expected to start between late 2019 and early 2020.

The United States has repeatedly warned Turkey against the consequences of its decision to buy the S-400 missile batteries from Russia, saying Washington could slap Ankara with sanctions over such a purchase.