Turkey condemns U.S. bill that could bar F-35 sale

The Turkish government condemned the new legislation going through the U.S. Congress that could bar the sale of new generation F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, pledging to “respond accordingly” if the law is passed.

A new bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and a similar bill sailing through the Senate would end the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey due to the arrest of American pastor Andrew Brunson and Turkey’s purchase of Russian S400 air defence systems. Brunson has been imprisoned in Turkey for more than 18 months charged with backing terrorist groups.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in Ankara that the F-35 was a multinational project, "According to agreement, everybody has a mission and we expect everyone to fulfil these missions. Such steps are breach of the spirit of our alliance with the U.S. As our minister stated if such steps are taken, we will have no other choice but to respond accordingly," he said.

"In the legislation, the transfer of the F-35 is tied to S-400 and the ending of Pastor Brunson's arrest. These are different topics and they should not be put together in the same basket. We have undertaken the tasks that we were supposed to," Aksoy said.

U.S. Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo said at a Senate hearing on Thursday that Turkey’s “actual possession of S-400 creates multiple challenges between us and Turkey, Turkey and NATO. We are pressing diplomatically to make it clear we're trying to offer them alternatives as well."

Responding to a question on Pompeo's remarks, Aksoy said: "We have already signed the agreement and the production has begun. We have to posses an air defence system from somewhere in the short term. We have purchased this because we could not do so from the U.S. or Europe. This is a short term (solution). In the mid-term and long term for example, our discussions over the Patriot systems with the Americans ongoing."

Aksoy said there was a U.S. delegation in Ankara and both sides were discussing the fate of the northern Syrian town of Manbij where U.S. forces are training Syrian Kurdish forces that the Turkish government says are terrorists.