US sanctions loom over Turkey as more Russian S-400 parts arrive
Turkey's defence ministry tweeted the landing of a fourth Russian cargo plane in Murted Air Base, near the capital, Ankara. On Friday, the ministry announced the much-awaited delivery of S-400 components had begun.
The US has repeatedly warned it will impose economic sanctions and kick Turkey, a fellow NATO member, out of the F-35 stealth fighter jet programme if Ankara does not drop its S-400 purchase. Turkey has refused to bow to US pressure, saying its defence purchase is a matter of national sovereignty.
The Trump administration was publicly silent on Friday on how it would respond to the delivery, with the Pentagon postponing a news conference.
Acting US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar spoke by phone. While the Pentagon declined to discuss the call, the Turkish ministry released a statement late on Friday, saying Akar stressed that the purchase of S-400 defense systems "was not an option but rather a necessity" due to Turkey's security concerns.
The statement said there was no change in Turkey's "strategic orientation", adding that a deterioration in relations would not serve the interests of Turkey, the US or NATO.
The minister also emphasised Turkey's commitment to the F-35 programme and repeated a proposal for a joint working group to study how the S-400 system would interact with the fighter jets.
The US is concerned the S-400 could be used to gather data on F-35 capabilities if Turkey has both.