US cautions Turkey over purchase of Russian defence system

United States threatens to reassess Ankara's participation in the F-35 fighter program.
Wednesday 06/03/2019
In this December, 2017 file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, following their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)
In this December, 2017 file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, following their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)

The US State Department said on Tuesday that Washington has made clear to Turkey that if it proceeds with the purchase of a Russian air defence system the United States will have to reassess Ankara's participation in the F-35 fighter program.

"We've clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the (Russian) S-400 (air defence system) will result in a reassessment of Turkey's participation in the F-35 program and risk other potential future arm transfers to Turkey," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a briefing.

Relations between the US and Turkey have gone through a series of crises in the past years. Last autumn, Washington slapped economic sanctions on Turkey in a successful attempt to force Ankara to release a US pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail in Turkey for two years.

The sanctions, which fueled a downward spiral of the Turkish currency, the Lira, were later lifted.

Washington wants Turkey to cancel the S-400 contract and buy the US Patriot system instead, arguing that the Russian system would not be compatible with NATO and might give Russia a chance to spy on top-notch western military technology like the new F-35 fighter jet.

But Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month his country would not go back on the Russian missile defense project. Turkey was open for talks about buying Patriots on top of the S-400, however.

(Reuters)