Turkish defence minister reiterates criticism for Washington over S-400 row

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Saturday reiterated criticism for Washington over the U.S. refusal to send the country F-35 jets, after Turkey was expelled from the stealth fighter programme over its purchase of the Russian S-400 defence systems.

"Our friends, allies, and those who know as friends, are somehow insisting on not giving us the supply we have paid for,’’ Cumhuriyet newspaper cited Akar as saying during a visit to Havelsan, in an apparent reference to U.S. F-35 fighter jets.

"That is why our factories, designers, and everyone in production must assume responsibility,’’ Akar said, while touring state-controlled defence firm Havelsan with the country’s top security officials.

Akar’s remarks are his third complaint of Washington in the past month over the United States’ stance on the S-400 systems.

Washington maintains the Russian system is incompatible with the NATO alliance's defence systems and Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s in 2019 prompted the United States to expel Turkey from a programme to build and purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jets and has rejected sending four F-35 fighters which Turkey had already paid for.

Washington also imposed sanctions over the purchase against officials of Turkey’s defence procurement agency in December. New U.S. President Joe Biden has warned of more punitive actions to follow in the future.

Meanwhile, Turkish contractors continue to manufacture parts for the fifth generation jet, despite Turkey’s removal and the implementation of sanctions.

"Despite all attempts on this matter, there continues to be a serious unease in this regard,’’ Akar said. "There is no mention of an embargo or restriction, but the process keeps dragging on.’’ 

Earlier this month, Akar said Turkey could use the weapons systems in a similar fashion to how Greece, a NATO and European Union member state, uses its S-300 systems located in Crete.

“It’s not like we will always use (the S-400),” Akar said. “These systems are made operational depending on the threat assessment. It’s us who decide on this.”

The Turkish defence minister on Friday said Ankara had sent a letter to Washington, proposing a solution over S-400s of the Crete model, which Washington had not responded to.

Akar repeated that Turkey would "use S-400 independent from the NATO system."