Turkey to engage in dialogue to ‘resolve F-35 issue’ - defence industry chief

Turkey will kickstart dialogue with the United States to resolve the F-35 issue between the two NATO allies, according to İsmail Demir, the President Defence Industries.

Speaking at an event at the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), Demir said the United States had no legal basis for removing Turkey from the fifth-generation stealth fighter jet programme and not delivering the jets that were already completed when the two allies had a falling out.

“We told them that according to the document that has been signed, no partner, even the main country, has a right to say they removed another partner,” Turkish daily Hürriyet cited Demir as saying. “Because according to this document, a partner can only be removed by a unanimous vote, or it can withdraw itself.”

The defence sector chief said the United States had implicitly recognised that Turkey’s removal had been unlawful, in that it announced it was withdrawing from the agreement itself, and that the job would continue via a separate memorandum of understanding.

Pentagon announced in April that Washington had signed a new MOU with eight other signatories, following the annulment of the previous one signed in 2006.

Washington had not been responding to Ankara’s attempts to hold meetings on the matter, Demir said, adding that a chain of meetings would be kicked off in the coming period.

“Our expectation is that two allies who have had relations in the spirit of alliance resolve this matter in a certain level of just outcome,” Demir said. “If you don’t talk, you can’t resolve anything. We have begun to talk.”

Considering the limitations on the F-35s and issues stemming from the jet’s F-35As, and F35Bs models, it might be a positive development that Turkey is out of the F-35 alliance, Demir told HaberTürk television last month.

The process to remove Turkey from the F-35 programme started in 2019, following Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems. The United States maintains that the Russian-made systems are incompatible with NATO architecture and pose a security risk. In December of the same year, then-U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry, and Demir himself in particular.