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F-35 jet program doomed to failure if Turkey excluded: Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the United States for threatening to stall the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to his country over the purchase of Russian-built advanced S-400 air defense missile systems, complaining that Ankara is being subjected to “an imposition” and unfair treatment on the issue.

“The F-35 project is bound to collapse if it excludes Turkey,” Erdogan told the audience at the 14th International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF’19) at Tuyap Fair and Exhibition Center in Istanbul on Tuesday.

He noted that Turkey has not accepted any impositions in the political, diplomatic and economic spheres, and will not bow down to any impositions in the defense field.

“We were surely not going to remain silent against our right to self-defense being disregarded and attempts to hit us where it hurts,” he said. “This is the kind of process that is behind the S-400 agreement we reached with Russia.”

Erdogan highlighted that those trying to exclude Turkey from the F-35 project had not thought it through, stressing that his country has become a leading actor regarding the production of armed and unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Nowadays, we are being subject to a similar injustice — or rather an imposition — on the F-35s,” he said.

The president added that Turkey has reduced its foreign defense industry dependence from 80% to 30% and it now exports defense industry products.

He underlined that his country has also taken steps to make its own fighter jets.

The United States announced on April 1 that it would be suspending all “deliveries and activities” related to Turkey’s procurement of F-35 stealth fighter jets over Ankara’s plans to purchase the S-400s.