U.S. official warns Ankara on F-35 deal over Russia S-400 system
A top U.S. State Department official on Tuesday warned Turkey that its purchase of 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets would be jeopardized if Ankara does not stop plans to buy S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, Reuters news agency reported.
Earlier this month, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed at the Senate floor brought the U.S. Congress an inch closer to producing a final bill containing provisions to halt the transfer of F-35s to Turkey temporarily until President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government changes its stated policy of purchasing the Russian S-400 missile system, which the United States maintains is incompatible with NATO systems.
“We’ve also been very clear that across the board, an acquisition of S-400 will inevitably affect the prospects for Turkish military-industrial cooperation with the United States, including F-35,” Reuters quoted Mitchell as saying during a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on U.S. relations with Europe.
Tensions have been mounting between Ankara and Washington in recent months over a string of issues, such as legal cases against American citizens detained in Turkey, notably a U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who is accused of terrorism charges and U.S. policy in Syria.
Mitchell also praised NATO ally Turkey as “a crucial ally and partner,” citing its support for the campaign against the Islamic State militant group, Reuters said. “We work with them very closely in intelligence and in other areas, but this has the potential to spike the punch.”
A “rollout” ceremony of the first Lockheed Martin produced F-35 jet for Turkey took place last week, while delivery, originally slated for June, will not occur until next year, Reuters said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu earlier this month said that if Washington decides against the sale of F-35s to Turkey, then it would buy aircraft from a second country or produce its own.