No turning back from Russian arms deal, Turkey says
Turkey will not back away from a major arms deal with Russia despite the US suspension of Ankara from the F-35 fighter-jet program.
"The S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
On the sidelines of 70th anniversary celebrations of NATO in which he was taking part, he told a think-tank forum in Washington that Turkey turned to Russia because it could not buy US Patriot missiles.
Cavusoglu, however, reportedly quoted President Donald Trump as saying in a phone call that former President Barack Obama had made a mistake not to sell the system to Turkey.
On Monday, the US said it would suspend shipment of F-35 parts of Turkey as well as joint manufacturing work, in retaliation of Ankara's purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Moscow.
The Trump administration has since made clear that it is ready to hand Patriot missiles to Turkey provided that Turkey drops the Russian S-400 missile system.
The Turkish official reiterated that Turkish-Russian deal doesn’t imply there is a warming towards Moscow.
Pointing to Russia's "aggression" in the Black Sea, Cavusoglu said "we disagree with Russia on many issues."
"We have been working with Russia," he said. But he vowed that Turkey will never recognize Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Cavusoglu, who attempted to be prudent in his speech, retracted by saying that Turkey’s stance “doesn't mean that we are undermining the alliance and we agree with Russia on everything. There is no shift on our foreign policy."
US officials are worried that, with Turkey in both camps, Russia could obtain F-35 data to improve the accuracy of Russia’s S-400 missile system to target Western aircraft.
The US said that it had started to look at secondary sources to manufacture parts for F-35s that were being developed in Turkey.
"We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership, but the (Defence Department) is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology," the Pentagon’s statement said.
The purchase of a Russian system an unusual move by a member of NATO, the Western alliance initially forged to counter the Soviet Union.
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