Turkey says now is not the time to clash with the United States

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said now is not the time to clash with the incoming U.S. administration of Joe Biden over the country’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles.

“It would be more useful to see the process first and then determine the method to deal with the S-400 issue,” Akar told local columnist Ahmet Hakan in an interview published in the Hürriyet newspaper on Monday.

On Dec.14, the United States imposed sanctions against Turkey’s Presidency of  Defence Industries (SSB) and several top officials for their role in the acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems. It implemented the sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets countries engaging with Russia’s defence sector.

The purchase of the Russian missiles was not a choice for Turkey, but a necessity for the safety of its 83 million citizens, Akar said.

“We have years of bilateral relations with the United States. We cannot lock this relationship up in S-400s, when there are hundreds of other issues,” Akar said.

Akar said that Turkey had still not received a positive response from the United States to its request to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Turkey holds him responsible for an attempted military coup in 2016.

Turkey has sent multiple extradition requests to the U.S. government for the return of Gülen. U.S. officials have said that it has failed to provide proper evidence for its claims.