S-400 deal with Russia 'most important agreement' in modern Turkish history -Erdoğan

Turkey’s deal with Russia for the S-400 missile system is the most significant contract to date in modern Turkish history, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday.

"By buying the S-400, Turkey is not preparing for war. Air defence systems are designed to ensure peace and security in our country. Other steps are also being taken in order to improve our defensive capabilities," left-wing news site Duvar quoted the Turkish president as saying during a gathering with Turkey’s leading media figures in Istanbul.

Turkey received the first batch of S-400 systems on Friday amid ongoing tensions between Ankara and Washington over the purchase. The $2.5 billion contract with Russia on the purchase of four battalion sets of S-400s was signed in late 2017.

Washington has repeatedly stated Ankara risks being ejected from the manufacturing programme of F-35 stealth fighter jets and facing U.S. sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) should it go through the purchase. 

Erdoğan on Sunday  denied the possibility of U.S. sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of the system. 

“Turkey does not exist in the scope of CAATSA. As such there is nothing pertaining to the F-35," Erdoğan said.

"The S-400 is one topic, the F-35 is a completely different one. As of today, we have already paid $1.4 billion for the F-35," Erdoğan added. "If Turkey is removed from the F-35 program, the cost of a single aircraft may rise by $7-8 million…This is not an easy decision [for Washington]." 

The process of delivering S-400s to Turkey should be completed by April of 2020, Erdoğan said, adding that part of the work for the installation of the systems is set to be completed by the end of this year.

Erdoğan also went on say that despite the "political and military pacts with the Western alliance’’ Turkey continues to see the greatest threats from the West.  

The Turkish president said he discussed the idea of joint production of the system with Russia during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan last month, adding that Ankara will discuss the prospects buying the S-500 from Moscow at a later date.

Erdoğan also reiterated that his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had given no indication of sanctions against Turkey over the S-400 purchase, recalling his talk with Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

"The approach a senator to this end should never ruin Turkey-U.S. relations,’’ Erdoğan said, referring to U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has said sanctions would be "required under law" if Turkey "activates" the S-400 air defence systems bought from Russia.

Erdoğan called Graham an "enemy of Turkey’’ and urged the U.S. President not to fall victim to the senator’s "game.’’