Concerns in Ankara over potential U.S. sanctions conveyed to Erdoğan - Reuters
Despite the Turkish official’s repeated statements that it will go ahead with plans to purchase Russian S-400 missile systems, concerns in Ankara fover potential U.S. sanctions have reached as far as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Reuters reported on Friday, citing two Turkish officials.
Washington has increased pressure on Ankara in recent weeks, as the delivery date of the S-400 systems nears.
CNBC reported last week that the U.S. government set early June as deadline for Turkey to either cancel its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile system and buy U.S.-made Patriots or risk expulsion from an advanced U.S. fighter jet program, U.S. sanctions and possible blowback from NATO.
Ankara’s worries about the impact of punitive U.S. measures against Turkey’s military have been deepening and have reached as far as Erdoğan, one Turkish official told Reuters.
“Some senior officials are opposing this delivery taking place, at least in June. A senior official conveyed this to Erdogan as well,” Reuters quoted one official as saying.
A second official familiar with the S-400 deal told Reuters that Ankara would not renege on plans to acquire Russian systems, despite worries over possible response of United States, which says that the S-400s could collect data on NATO military operations and undermine their defences.
Turkey’s top defence official this week signalled for the first time a possible delay in the delivery of the Russian systems. “It may not happen in June but it will come in the upcoming months,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Haberturk television late Monday.
However, Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday said the delivery of the S-400 systems was going ahead as planned. “Reports of some media organs in recent days which say Turkey considers delaying S-400 procurement on U.S. demand are baseless,” Hami Aksoy, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said.
But, the Turkish officials speaking to Reuters left open the possibility of delay in the delivery of S-400 systems.
“The plan now is for the S-400s to be delivered in June, but there is an ongoing discussion,” Reuters quoted one unnamed official as saying. “Depending on the talks, it may be pushed back.”
Bloomberg reported on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump accepted Turkey's offer to form a joint technical study group on the Russian S-400 missile defence system during a phone call with his Turkish counterpart this week.
But, the White House and Pentagon have not confirmed an agreement on a joint study group, and a National Security Council spokesperson told Ahval there was "nothing new to announce" on Friday.
During their phone conversation, Erdoğan and Trump also discussed the possibility of a meeting next month on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka Japan.
A defence industry official told Reuters that Turkey did not want to hurt ties with Washington or Moscow.“With the Erdogan-Trump meeting, it’s possible that the two sides will understand each other better,” the official said.