May 23 2019

Delay S-400 purchase and form NATO working group - Turkish opposition

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has proposed a delay to the controversial purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems until after a joint commission with NATO is set up on the issue, Turkish left-wing nationalist daily Aydınlık reported on Thursday.

CHP Deputy Chair Ünal Çeviköz, a former diplomat, told a press conference at parliament in Ankara Turkey had entered a foreign policy bottleneck due to critical issues including the S-400 purchase.

Çeviköz said the purchase of the Russian systems was a matter for Turkey, the buyer, to decide, but debate over it had regressed to an argument between the United States and Russia.

U.S. and NATO officials have attempted to dissuade Turkey from going through with the purchase since the deal was signed in December 2017, but Turkish leaders have insisted the purchase would proceed. Turkish military personnel travelled to Russia this month to take part in training for the Russian systems.

If Turkey goes ahead and deploys the S-400s in October, it is likely to face expulsion from the F-35 fighter jet programme and targeted U.S. sanctions on officials involved in the deal.

Last month Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu suggested a working group could be set up with the United States to resolve the difficulties the purchase had resulted in.

Çeviköz proposed setting up the working group with NATO rather than the United States and delaying the S-400 purchase until discussions are complete.

“It will be easier for Turkey to resolve this dilemma if it understands the need to see the S-400 purchase on a NATO level”, Çeviköz said.