Syria dispute won't affect Turkey’s Russian S-400 defence deal - foreign minister

Differences over war-torn Syria, where Turkey and Russia back opposing sides, should not affect relations between the two countries or disrupt its contract for the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defences, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday.

Turkey and Russia must work to ensure that problems in Syria do not undermine co-operation and relations, Russian TASS news agency quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

“We can not change the principle-based positions we hold or our politics over individual disagreements with one country or another. We must not allow the problems in Syria to undermine our co-operation and relations,” the Turkish foreign minister said following a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Tensions over Idlib and the S-400 are two separate issues, Çavuşoğlu said.

Ankara and Moscow in Sept. 2017 signed a loan agreement for the supply of Russian S-400 air defence systems to Turkey. The United States and its NATO allies see the Russian system as incompatible with NATO systems and posing a security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter. Washington has suspend Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme over the purchase and is eyeing sanctions against Ankara over the move.

The Turkish military casualties in Syria’s northwestern Idlib and the advances of the Russian-backed Syrian government forces, carried out with the help of Russian airpower, have led soaring tensions between Ankara and Moscow.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said this week that Turkey could intervene in Idlib, after Syrian shelling in the province in one week killed 13 Turkish soldiers. Ankara is seeking to enforce a de-escalation deal for Syria’s last rebel-held province brokered in 2018 by Russia.