Turkey could be attacked by long-range missiles, says interior minister

Turkey in the past did not have the means to purchase the S-400 missile defence system, however the Russian system is necessary for the country as it could be attacked by long-range missiles, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday.

"Should we not purchase the S-400s? We didn’t have the means in the past. Not only did we not have money, we didn’t have the power and the self-confidence, but today we have [both]. They could attack any location in Turkey with a long-range missile," pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper quoted Soylu as saying during a pre-dawn meal with locals in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district.

The United States and NATO are concerned that S-400 Russian missile system could collect data on NATO military operations and have called on Turkey to cancel its acquisition.

Ankara has repeatedly stated the S-400 is a done deal and it will not bow to U.S. pressure on the matter.

A bipartisan U.S. House bill submitted earlier this month calls for the termination of Turkey’s participation in F-35 production programme and a halt to delivery of F-35 aircraft to Turkey if Ankara pushes through with the purchase of the Russian system.

Washington has also threatened Turkey with sanctions over its deal to buy the system.

Soylu also touched on Turkey’s Syrian refugees, noting that around 330,000 Syrians have returned home from Turkey following two counter-terror cross-border operations into the war-torn country.

“329,000 people from Syria have returned so far thanks to the peace provided in Afrin and the area liberated by Operation Euphrates Shield,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Soylu as saying.

Turkey is currently home to the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world. Some 4 million arrived after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the country’s border to the refugees when the war began in Syria in 2011. 

Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation in 2016 and Olive Branch operation in 2018 in northern Syria targeted Kurdish militants, namely the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara maintains is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for autonomy for 30 years.

Northern Syria, including Al-Bab, Afrin and Azaz, have been freed from the group, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence there to return home, according to the Turkish interior ministry.