Sun, Jul 14, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Turkey gets first batch of Russian missiles

‘HARD TO FATHOM’:US representatives said that the Turkish president was given a clear choice, but has made the wrong one, with the NATO ally siding with Russia

AFP, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Trucks wait alongside a Russian military cargo plane carrying an S-400 missile defence system from Russia at the Murted air base in Ankara on Friday.

Photo: AFP / Turkish Defense Ministry

Turkey on Friday received the first batch of Russian S-400 missile systems, sparking NATO “concern” and risking deepening tensions with the US, which has repeatedly warned against the purchase.

The delivery to an air base in the Turkish capital, Ankara, came after Washington warned this week that there would be “real and negative” consequences if Turkey bought the defense system.

NATO, which counts Turkey as one of its members, is “concerned about the potential consequences” of the purchase, an official told reporters.

The alliance has repeatedly warned Turkey that the Russian system is incompatible with other NATO weapons systems, not least the F-35, a new-generation multi-role stealth fighter jet.

The US fears that if Ankara integrates the S-400 into its defenses, there is a risk that sensitive data about its F-35 could leak back to Russia and it has threatened to expel Turkey from its fighter jet program.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down and said he is confident that Turkey will not face US sanctions after meeting US President Donald Trump on the margins of the G20 summit in Japan last month.

On Friday, the Turkish Ministry of Defense issued a statement confirming “the delivery of the first shipment of parts of the S-400 long-range regional air missile defense system” had begun.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that “everything is happening in strict accordance with the agreements and signed contracts, all obligations are being carried out.”

While the Trump administration stayed quiet, members of the US Congress across party lines called for the US to terminate Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and to slap sanctions on Turks involved in the deal with Russia.

“President Erdogan was given a very clear choice. Unfortunately, he has clearly made the wrong one,” US representatives Eliot Engel and Michael McFaul said.

“That a NATO ally would choose to side with Russia and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin over the alliance and closer cooperation with the United States is hard to fathom,” they said in a joint statement.

The US Department of State has said that Turkish officials are fully aware of legislation — the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — which mandates sanctions for any “significant” purchases of weapons from Russia.

Washington has given Ankara until July 31 to cancel the S-400 purchase or have its pilots kicked off its F-35 training course and expelled from the US.

Trump’s pick for Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, confronted Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar about the deal on the sidelines of a NATO meeting last month.

Akar told Esper in a phone call on Friday that Turkey was under “serious threat” and its acquisition of S-400s was “not a choice, but an obligation,” the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement.

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