S-400 no threat to F-35 security, Turkish foreign minister says

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said Turkey will have “full control” of Russian S-400 missile systems it plans to buy this year, Turkish pro-government daily Hürriyet reported on Thursday.

“Firstly, these systems will by completely under our control, and will not be integrated with NATO systems”, Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying during an official visit to Latvia on Thursday.

The objections to the procurement raised by U.S. officials are therefore not valid, he said.

Turkey announced its deal to purchase S-400 systems from Russia in December 2017, and has since met stiff resistance from U.S. and NATO officials.

The western officials have said the presence in a NATO country of a system manufactured by a hostile power could provide a backdoor to sensitive data on NATO hardware, including the new-generation F-35 jet.

But Çavuşoğlu said if these concerns were well-founded, it would mean the presence of F-35 jets in European countries near Russia would cause the same threat to security.

Turkey is lined up to buy 100 of the new F-35 stealth fighter jet, which it has helped to manufacture as part of the supply chain.

However, bipartisan legislation presented to the U.S. Congress appears likely to halt the transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey or completely remove the country from the programme unless Ankara cancels the S-400 deal.

During his Latvia visit, Çavuşoğlu said he had proposed establishing working groups with NATO and U.S. officials to resolve the disagreement.

Yet this is not likely to satisfy U.S. lawmakers, who have repeatedly told Turkey to choose either the S-400 systems or the F-35 fighters.

“Operating the S-400 alongside the F-35 would compromise the aircraft and its sensitive technology, impact interoperability among NATO allies, and most importantly pose serious risk to our shared defense and security", said one of the U.S. officials,  Senator John Garamendi.

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