RIGA, Latvia / ANKARA --- Turkish officials have once again refuted the United States’ claims that the deployment of Russian S-400 air defense systems on the Turkish soils together with the U.S. F-35 aircraft would create a security breach. They repeated their calls for setting up a joint committee to analyze both sides’ technical views regarding the matter.
“If these claims by the U.S. were true, S-400s would have already accessed [secrets] to the F-35 technology (as both are deployed) in Syria, the Baltic region and in the north. Because there are S-400s in Syria under the full control of Russia. The U.S. and Israeli F-35s are flying around them,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Riga at a joint press conference with Latvian counterpart Edgards Rinkevics on May 16.
He also recalled that Norway has F-35s with the Russian S-400s stationed right on the other side of the Norwegian-Russian border.
“If these claims were true, they should have already been verified,” he said.
Turkey and the United States have long been in a spat over Turkey’s plans to deploy Russia’s anti-ballistic missile systems in its territory. The United States has been voicing its strong opposition to the idea, threatening its NATO ally with sanctions that include the exclusion of Turkey from the multibillion-dollar F-35 aircraft project.
“We have made clear that these systems will fully be under our control and won’t be integrated to existing NATO systems,” Çavuşoğlu stressed, recalling the Turkish government’s offer for the establishment of a technical committee to both the United States and NATO.
“These assessments should be made by technical experts,” he added.
Turkey’s proposal to set up such a committee has received no response from the United States. On May 15, Çavuşoğlu denied reports that Turkey was mulling delaying the deployment of Russian systems.
Turkey and Russia had agreed for the sale of the S-400s in 2017. The deployment process is expected to begin in June or July.
S-400 deal still on
Meanwhile, Turkey’s defense industry chief underlined Turkey’s commitment to the deal with Russia but recalled that negotiations are ongoing with the United States for U.S. Patriot systems.
“We [Turkey] are a serious country, our deal with Russia continues, we also negotiate with the U.S.,” Turkish Defense Industries (SSB) President Ismail Demir told Anadolu Agency, speaking after a handover ceremony of mobile surveillance equipment in the capital Ankara.
He said the delivery of the S-400 missile system had already been discussed with Russian officials and delivery could take place in June -- earlier than initially planned.
At the same time, bilateral negotiations with the United States will continue, Demir said, without revealing further details. The United States has renewed its offer to supply the Patriot air defense systems, but on the condition that Turkey cancels the S-400 deal with Russia.