Turkey is ready to purchase Patriot surface-to-air missile systems and other similar systems from its NATO allies, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday during an online seminar organized by the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
"Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400 system is a result of US reluctance to meet our urgent needs for many years, for 10 years. And this is also acknowledged by [US] President [Donald] Trump," TASS quoted the Turkish top diplomat as saying.
"We are ready to purchase [US-made] Patriot systems if we have a good offer. And our stance on the resolution of the S-400 issue has not changed. We offer the US to establish a technical working group with NATO’s inclusion, and NATO can lead this technical working group actually. And this offer is still on the table," Cavusoglu continued.
He assured that "Turkey will never put the integrity of the NATO defense system at risk."
"This also includes the F-35 program, of which Turkey is a founding partner," the minister said, adding that his country had already allocated $1.35 billion for the purpose before being excluded by Washington after the purchase of the Russian-made defense systems.
"What I am trying to say is that: we had to buy S-400 air defense systems just because we could not purchase those kind of system from our allies for last 10 years. And in the future we need more air defense systems. And if our allies can provide - it does not have to be only Patriot from the United States, it can also be a SAMP/T of Eurosam, a joint venture of France and Italy, or any similar system from other allies - and we prefer to purchase from our allies. If not, I have to seek alternatives," Cavusoglu added.
Turkey’s criticism of US
The Turkish top diplomat criticized the United States for putting various preconditions for the delivery of Patriot systems to Turkey.
"First of all, it is not appropriate to put preconditions when an ally is in need, an urgent need, like happening in Idlib," he said. "Turkey needed the support of NATO, and also of allies, member states. <…> And we need advanced missile and air defense systems to protect our people."
"The ballistic threat that Turkey faces is real," he added.
According to the minister, Turkey’s previous attempts to purchase Patriot systems from the United States were unsuccessful.
"The Congress, unfortunately - yes, I can understand their frustration and the reaction [to Turkey’s S-400 deal with Moscow] - but the Congress played a negative role in that respect," Cavusoglu said.
S-400, F-35 and Turkey
Russia announced in September 2017 that it had signed a $2.5 billion deal with Turkey on the delivery of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Ankara. Under the contract, Ankara will get a regiment set of S-400 air defense missile systems (two battalions). The deal also envisages partial transfer of production technology to the Turkish side.
Turkey is the first NATO member state to purchase such air defense missile systems from Russia. The deliveries of S-400 launchers to Turkey began on July 12, 2019.
The United States and NATO have been making attempts to prevent Turkey from purchasing Russia's S-400 missile systems. Washington has warned on many occasions that it may impose sanctions on Turkey, if Ankara presses ahead with the S-400 deal. On July 17, 2019, the press secretary of the US White House said in a written statement that Turkey’s decision to acquire Russian-made S-400 air defense systems rendered Ankara’s further participation in the US program of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter-bomber impossible.
The S-400 ‘Triumf’ is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range weapons, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.