Turkey not stepping back on Russian S-400 systems, says Erdoğan aide

Turkey will not step back from its deployment of the Russian S-400 air defence systems and Ankara will work to prevent the matter from becoming a problem between Turkey and the United States, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Tuesday.

Kalın’s statement arrives a week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Washington, where he held talks with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump over an array of issues that have led to tensions between the NATO allies, including the S-400.

“It is out of question (for Turkey) to back step on the S-400, this is an agreement which has been signed and completed. We are going to work to prevent this (matter) from becoming a problem with the United States,” Birgün newspaper quoted Kalın as saying.

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. Turkey began to take delivery of S-400 components in late July, prompting Washington to remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter jets programme. 

Kalın also reiterated Turkey’s call on Russia and the United States to fulfil the agreements reached with Ankara in October to eliminate Kurdish militia from northeastern Syria, where Turkey launched an offensive last month.

“We are calling on the United States and Russia to fulfill the criteria of the agreements,’’ Kalın said.

Pointing to difficulties and provocations in the field, Kalın said there would be a humanitarian crisis in the region if Russia and the United States failed to fullfill their duties under the agreements reached with both countries.

Turkey launched a military offensive in northern Syria on Oct. 9 against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which makes up the bulk of the SDF. Turkey says the YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey since 1984. 

Turkey’s military incursion ended after nine days as Ankara made two separate deals with the United States and Russia for the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from areas along a 444 km strip of the border.