July 19, 2019
ANKARA, Turkey (Anadolu Agency) – Senior Turkish and U.S officials on July 18 discussed Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 program, according to an official statement.
Turkey’s Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın had a phone conversation with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, said the statement by Turkey’s presidential office.
Kalın expressed Turkey’s “discomfort” over the recent U.S. decision, which he said is not compatible with the previous statements of the two leaders of countries, it noted.
On July 17, Washington announced it was taking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program, following the threats to do so over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air system.
The statement underlined that the Turkey-U.S. relations will not follow healthy progress with the unilateral impositions.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara signed a contract in 2017 to purchase the S-400s from Russia.
U.S. officials argued the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
It urged the formation of a commission to clarify any technical issues, but the U.S. failed to respond to this proposal.
The U.S. threatened sanctions over the purchase, with Turkey responding that any sanctions would be met in kind.
The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing, with 15 shipments of related equipment so far having landed in Turkey over the last six days.
Deliveries are set to continue through April 2020.
Trump sends mixed messages on S-400 sanctions
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump made a series of contradictory remarks on July 18 on whether or not the U.S. will be imposing sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air system.
Trump initially said the sanctions are not under consideration “right now,” before later telling reporters “we’re looking at it.”
The president said the situation is “very very difficult,” continuing to blame his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for the row.
“The previous administration made some very big mistakes with regard to Turkey and it was too bad,” Trump said in the Oval Office while hosting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “So we’re looking at it, we’ll see what we do. We haven’t announced that yet.”
‘Adverse effects on NATO’
In the meantime, Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program would also have “adverse” effects on NATO’s power, particularly on its Southern flank, Turkey’s defense minister said on July 18.
“Expecting from the U.S. to avoid steps that could harm relations of two countries is the most natural right of Turkey as a strategic partner,” Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency after inspection of troops deployed along the country’s border with Syria.
“Unilateral and unfair decision” to try to remove Turkey from F-35 project “is not based on legitimate justification.”