Erdogan to ask US not to exclude Turkey from F-35 fighter deal
By Fulya OZERKAN
ATTENTION - ADDS quotes, background ///
Istanbul, June 12, 2019 (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday
said he hoped to persuade the United States not to exclude Turkey from taking
part in the F-35 fighter jet programme, ahead of his meeting with President
Donald Trump later this month.
Erdogan, who is to meet Trump on the margins of G20 summit in Japan on June
28-29, said in a televised speech that before the gathering he "would like to
discuss this issue by telephone and reverse it from the current situation back
to where we started".
Washington has given Turkey until the end of July to abandon its purchase
of a major Russian missile defence system, which it considers incompatible
with Ankara's participation in the US's construction of its F-35 stealth
The Pentagon announced on Friday that if by July 31 Turkey did not give up
on the S-400 system, Ankara would be blocked from purchasing F-35 fighter jets
and Turkish pilots currently training in the US would be expelled.
Erdogan vowed to seek answers on his country's "exclusion from F-35 project
for reasons that have no rational or legitimate basis", adding that Turkey was
not only a customer but also a programme partner of the F-35 project.
Turkey plans to buy 100 F-35s and its defence industry has made significant
investment in the warplanes' production.
"We have so far paid $1.250 billion," Erdogan said.
- 'Completed business'-
The Turkish leader however repeated there would be no step back from
"Look, I am not saying Turkey will buy the S400 defence system, I say
Turkey has bought it," he added.
"We have completed the business. God willing, the system will be delivered
to our country next month."
The purchase has raised eyebrows among Turkey's NATO allies and provoked
anger in Washington, which expected Ankara to opt for the American Patriot air
defence system instead.
But Erdogan said Russia offered a better deal including reasonable pricing
and a joint production promise.
"This is not an attack system but a defence system. Won't we take necessary
measures to defend our country?" he said.
"Did we ask for such a defence system from America? Yes, we did. Did they
deliver? No, they didn't," he said.
Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Friday the US offer for
the Patriots was "very competitive".
He also said he had sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar
informing him of Washington's decision to pull Turkey out of the F-35
programme unless it abandons its plans to buy the S400 system.
Akar said in a statement Wednesday that the language used in the letter
"does not bode well for the spirit of the alliance."
He said Turkey was preparing a response to the letter.