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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400s is a 'done deal' says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The president said cancelling the deal would be an 'immoral act'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an event in Ankara. Presidential Press Service via AP 
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an event in Ankara. Presidential Press Service via AP 

Turkey will proceed with the purchase of Russian-made missile defence systems, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted in a rebuke of American attempts to block the deal.

Mr Erdogan said the purchase of the S-400 system is a "done deal", despite Turkey admitting last week that it was in negotiations with the United States over the purchase of a Patriot missile system at preferable rates.

The US has warned that if Turkey proceeded with its purchase of the system, then it could impose sanctions. America has branded the move a national security threat and warned that Ankara will be unable to integrate it into the Nato military infrastructure.

“It is out of the question for us to revoke the S-400 deal,” Mr Erdogan said during an interview with TV24 television broadcast late on Wednesday. “Such an immoral act would not suit us.”

The United States fears the Russian-made system could be used to collect information on US jet stealth capabilities, which Mr Erdogan denies.

"We’ve researched it, there is no such thing," he said.

The dispute puts at risk the close integration of military forces that Nato allies.

The top US Commander in Europe, Gen Curtis Scaparrotti, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Turkey's purchase of 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets should be refused if it forges ahead with the purchase of Russia's S-400s.

The jet is partially produced in Turkey and has led to an investment of more than $1.25 billion by Ankara since 2002.

But Turkey's deal with the Russians also includes joint-production of the system, something a proposed Patriot missile system deal by the United States last month did not include.

“We will not go into a deal if they [the United States] insist on keeping the ‘key’ to the system,” Mr Erdogan said of the Patriot missiles. “We’ve agreed with the Russians; we will go into joint production. We may also go into S-500s after the S-400s.”

Politically, relations are strained between the two countries. The Trump Administrations refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup, a showdown over the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, threats of US sanctions and a confrontation over a "safe zone" on the Turkish-Syrian border have all impacted relations.

On Syria, Turkey wants to control a safe zone between Syrian Kurdish forces – who Washington support – along their border, but the United States want an international armed presence there. However, Turkey has also threatened to launch an operation into Syria to fight the Syrian Kurdish forces it says are indistinguishable from ISIS.

“We can’t say ‘yes’ to giving control of the safe zone to anyone but Turkey,” Mr Erdogan said. “Otherwise, we would be facing the threat of an attack from that area any moment.”

But Mr Erdogan also expressed positivity towards US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, saying discussions between Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and Mr Kushner could "put things back on track."

Mr Kushner was recently in Ankara as part of a Middle East tour that included the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Updated: March 7, 2019 01:36 PM

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