Aug 30 2019

Turkish foreign minister denies plan to buy Russian jets as F-35 fallout continues

(Recasts)


Turkey is not looking to buy Russian fighter jets and is still part of the F-35 programme, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Friday, days after the Turkish president inspected new generation Russian-built planes with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Ankara's purchase of Russian-built S-400 missile defence systems led to its suspension from the F-35 programme when the first S-400s arrived in Turkey in July. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's friendly meeting with Putin at and air show near Moscow on Tuesday fuelled speculation that Moscow could become Turkey's supplier for new fighters. 

Çavuşoğlu downplayed the speculation during a joint press conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide on Friday.

"Firstly, we didn't say we were buying planes from Russia. We are a part of the F-35 programme", Turkey's secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

However, the foreign minister has said that Turkey will examine alternatives if it can not buy the F-35 jets, and Russia's Su-57 or Su-34 jets are seen as strong contenders in this instance.

This is all the more likely due to Turkey's complicated partnership with Russia in the conflict in neighbouring Syria, said analyst Seth J. Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Due to the complex web of relations between different actors in Syria, Turkey might need to buy Russian jets to secure its national interests in the war-torn country.

Erdoğan visited Moscow on Tuesday amid escalating violence in Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, where the advances of Syrian government forces has jeapordised a Turkish-Russian deal over the province. 

Russia appears to be the key broker in the conflict, so Turkey may need to buy Russian aircraft to get what it wants in Syria, Frantzman said. 

Vladimir Fitin, the head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Center, told TASS news agency on Wednesday that Ankara might be aiming to put pressure on the United States by hinting of plans to boost cooperation with Moscow.