US President Donald Trump has told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara’s contract with Russia to purchase S-400 missile systems is a “problem” that gets in the way of expanding ties between the two NATO allies, as Turkey approaches the US deadline for either ditching the deal or facing punishments.
“It’s a problem, there’s no question about it,” Trump said Saturday, after meeting Erdogan during the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka. “It’s not good. It’s not good.”
The American head of state added that Turkey “has been a friend of ours” and ties will expand even more once such obstacles are addressed.
“We’re a big trading partner. We’re going to be much bigger,” Trump added.
Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads for months over Ankara’s purchase order for the S-400s, which the US claims are incompatible with NATO systems and the Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth fighters.
Washington has given Ankara until the end of July to abandon its purchase of the Russian missile defense systems or see a deal for the purchase of F-35s from the US canceled.
S-400s to be delivered on schedule: Erdogan
Erdogan said earlier in the day that there were no setbacks in an agreement to purchase the advanced S-400 missile defense system from Russia and that the delivery process is ongoing without any delays.
“As far as I understand, there are no delays in the process of this delivery,” Erdogan said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka on Saturday.
“We continue to observe the process of delivery of S-400 systems with regard to our agreement reached in Dushanbe. I would also like to note that joint missile building, including the transfer of technologies, is a priority for our cooperation,” he added, referring to the Tajik capital where the two leaders agreed earlier in the month that Turkey would receive the advanced missile hardware in the first half of July.
During his meeting with Putin, the Turkish president also stressed that “eyes are now on the delivery process” of the missile defense battery.