Ankara, Moscow dismiss U.S. proposal for purchase of Turkey’s S-400 systems

Turkey on Tuesday dismissed a U.S. proposal for the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-missile systems, saying there was" no legal ground” for such a move.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Spokesman Ömer Celik, during a press conference on Tuesday evening said selling the missile defence systems to other countries would not be accepted as appropriate.

“Primarily, the issue needs to be evaluated on political and legal angles,” Çelik said.

Legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate by Senate Majority Whip John Thune last week could allow for the United States to purchase the Russian S-400 air defence missile system from Turkey, if passed and signed by the president. The amendment includes a condition to ensure that the proceeds of the purchase by the U.S. government "will be not be utilized to acquire other military weapons systems deemed by the US to be incompatible with the NATO."

Çelik said that any country that purchases a weapons system would do so as a final user.

The AKP spokesman added that Turkey would be still willing to buy U.S. Patriots systems if the U.S. government was ready for the sale.

Moscow on Tuesday echoed Turkey’s sentiments on the U.S. proposal.

Maria Vorobyova, spokeswoman for Russia's federal service for military - technical cooperation, said Turkey cannot re-export Russian-made S-400 air defence systems to another country without Russia's permission, Reuters reported, referencing Russian Interfax news agency. 

Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, told reporters that the proposal by U.S. Senator Thune is "unprincipled" and "cynical," Sputnik Turkish reported.

"I don't think this will happen and I think Turkey will not take this proposal into consideration," Slutsky added.

Turkey signed the agreement to buy the system from Russia in September of 2017, for four batteries, at a price of nearly 2.5 billion dollars. Turkey has so far received the first batch of the system, which costs 1.3 billion dollars, and yet to commission the second batch, which, costs 1.2 billion dollars, according to the defence industry online news site SavunmaSanayist.

The agreement signed between Russia and Turkey has not been disclosed to the public, therefore the details about the technology transfer and co-production, as well as other details such as possibility of selling the defence systems to the third party are not publicly available. 

In early June, Russian Ambassador to Ankara Alexei Yerhov said in an interview with CNN Turk that Russia would not have any opposition to what Turkey did with the systems since it is  the “owner of the systems.”

“Let’s say I’m a car distributor and you wanted to buy a vehicle from me. We got the money and sold the vehicle to you. This vehicle is yours. Whether you go to the beach, carry potatoes or install a machine gun on it, join a war, it's your natural right to keep it in the garage,” Yerhov said.

Looking at the recent statements by Russian officials, it appears that Turkey is allowed to “carry potatoes” with the S-400 systems, as the Russian ambassador suggested, but not allowed to sell them to the United States.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.