Turkish FM admits to tension with U.S. over F-35 fighter jets

U.S. foot-dragging on the planned delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in response to Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems is hindering relations between the two NATO allies according to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Russian Sputnik news reported.

The United States is due to deliver the first of more than 100 F-35 jets to Turkey this month, but a bill making its way through U.S. Congress is aiming to block the sale of the jets due to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems in addition to Turkey’s detainment of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Çavuşoğlu, speaking ahead of his Monday meeting in Washington with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo, said, “There really is tension between Ankara and Washington over a contract for the delivery of fifth generation fighters, but do not forget that Turkey, even before the contract with Russia, discussed the issue of air defense procurement with its US ally.”

The Turkish foreign minister, at a meeting organized by the Turkish-American National Steering Committee (TASC) in Washington, said “The US refused to sell them to us. If they are ready to sell such systems to Turkey today, we are ready to buy them.”

Çavuşoğlu earlier this month stated that Turkey would be knock on another door if the United States does not come through with the delivery of the Lockheed Martin's F-35 advanced fighter jets. 

Ankara is slated to buy two batteries of S-400 missiles from Russia, which will be manned by Turkish military personnel. Russia has agreed to provide technological know-how for the production of a new generation of Turkish air defense systems.

US and NATO officials have repeatedly criticized Ankara's push to buy Russian S-400 systems, which they say are incompatible with NATO systems.

There is talk in pro-government media that Ankara is eyeing Russian Su-57 "stealth" jets as an alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets.