Turkey Adamant on Keeping Russian S-400 Missiles Opposed by U.S.
(Bloomberg) -- Turkey remains adamant about keeping Russian S-400 missiles and says that a solution to the dispute involves the U.S. looking at demands and security concerns of its NATO ally with a wider strategic perspective.
“Turkey, as a sovereign country, made a decision regarding the S-400s and it will keep up the process until the end and complete it,” Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told state-run TRT television late Thursday in Ankara.
The president last month said that Turkey and Russia would discuss the delivery of a second batch of S-400 missile-defense systems at the end of January. It wasn’t clear whether those talks have been postponed or canceled.
The U.S. said its opposition to Turkey’s possession of the missiles hasn’t changed, rebuffing Ankara’s search for compromise on a dispute that’s strained ties between the NATO allies. “We have and we continue to urge Turkey not to retain this system,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in Washington on Wednesday.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar signaled over the weekend that Turkey could give ground on the missiles if the U.S. severs support for Syrian Kurdish forces viewed by Ankara as a mortal threat. Kalin appealed for dialogue to address the U.S. concerns, saying that Washington’s rejection of a longstanding Turkish proposal to create a working group to discuss the missiles “does not solve the problem.”
“The S-400s are here, and we will continue to exist in this region,” Kalin said. “We think that if they see the strategic picture from a slightly larger angle and read it with a correct perspective, we will be able to progress on this issue.”
American support for Kurdish YPG fighters is a key area of conflict because of the force’s link to another Kurdish separatist movement that Turkey has been fighting for more than three decades.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress have both taken a hard line on Turkey, in part over its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missiles, which Washington says could gather intelligence on Western military capabilities including Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth fighter jet. Turkey acquired the first system from Moscow in 2019 after dropping talks for a comparable U.S. Patriot system because Washington refused to share technology.
“We can’t agree with Russia on many issues,” Kalin said citing disagreements over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s refusal to recognize annexation of Ukraine and support given to opposing sides in the Libyan war as examples. “But despite all these separations, there is a relationship we can manage. Why not do the same with America in other matters? Why not do the same with Europe?”
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