President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey’s purchase of advanced Russian-built S-400 air defense missile systems is “a done deal”, warning that Ankara will retaliate if the Washington imposes sanctions over the purchase.
The S-400 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.
Turkey and the US, two NATO allies, have been at loggerheads for months over Ankara’s purchase order for the S-400s, which Washington claims are incompatible with NATO systems and the F-35 stealth fighters.
Furthermore, Washington has given Ankara until the end of July to cancel its purchase of the Russian missile defense systems or see another deal – for the purchase of F-35 stealth fighters from the US – canceled.
“The positions where those missiles will be deployed have already been decided,” Erdogan further said, speaking at a rare news conference for foreign media in Istanbul on Thursday.
He reiterated that the missile systems would arrive in the first half of July.
The White House has time and again threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it presses ahead with its 2017-finalized deal with Moscow for the advanced missile system.
“I do not see any possibility of these sanctions happening,” Erdogan further noted, warning that if they did, “we will have sanctions of our own.”
The Turkish president, who has developed a personal relationship with US President Donald Trump, noted that he did not expect Washington to impose such sanctions.
“I say this very openly and sincerely, our relations with Trump are at a place that I can call really good … In the event of any issues, we immediately work the phones,” Erdogan said.
He said he would discuss the issue with the American leader at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of this month.
“When we have talks with those below Trump, we see that many cannot agree with our officials, and one example is the S-400,” the Turkish president added.
Purchasing military equipment from Moscow leaves Ankara liable to Washington’s retribution under a 2017 law known as “ the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act”, or CAATSA.
On April 1, Washington announced 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. It has also suspended the training of the Turkish F-35 pilots in Arizona.
Erdogan said Ankara would appeal to international courts and ask for its F-35 payments to be refunded if needed.
Washington has warned that the S-400 deal will jeopardize Turkey’s cooperation with NATO. Ankara has said it will not bow to US pressure to cancel the deal with Moscow.