Turkish media reported this week that Washington offered to sell Ankara the Patriot missile system if it backed out of its deal with Russia to buy the S-400 missile system. But senior ruling Justice and Development Party lawmaker Berat Conkar says such an exchange would be unthinkable for Ankara.
Conkar, a member of the Turkish parliament’s commission on foreign policy and a representative in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, told Sputnik Turkey that the State Department’s efforts to sell Ankara its Patriots in exchange for S-400s would not be met with success.
“Notwithstanding our repeated statements about Ankara’s immutable position regarding the purchase of the S-400s, the American side continues to insist on putting this issue on the agenda, which, frankly, is rather difficult to explain,” the lawmaker said. “The question of buying the S-400s is closed, and we have explained the situation to our NATO and US partners in the clearest way possible and at the highest level, through the president and the foreign minister,” Conkar added.
“We have repeatedly stressed that we are acting within the framework of international norms, purchasing those weapons systems which we deem necessary to ensure our own national security. Meanwhile, US representatives approach the issue somewhat more egoistically, considering it only from their own point of view, and [Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tina] Kaidanow’s statement [about trading S-400s for Patriots] fits this picture perfectly,” the lawmaker said.
Earlier, a Turkish foreign ministry source told Sputnik that Ankara had spent over a decade “studying and analyzing” suitable air defense systems, and that it was turned away when it put the question to the US, which is when Russia proposed the S-400 and Turkey decided to purchase the system.
“The priority for us is ensuring Turkey’s security and meeting the country’s air defense needs in a prompt manner,” Conkar stressed. “Furthermore, this does not in any way conflict with our allied relations with NATO. The statements by the American side reflect their interests, but we must think first and foremost about the interests and security of Turkey…and expect that our position will be accepted with understanding by our allies.”
Finally, asked about the US threats of “serious sanctions consequences” for Turkey if it purchases the S-400s, Conkar noted that in Ankara’s estimation, President Trump will not impose sanctions on Turkey over the issue, with initiatives at the Congressional level ineffective.
“Some anti-Turkish groups in American circles of power may continue to put forward similar initiatives. However, we will proceed and act in accordance with decisions made at the highest level. On this issue, we will interact with the US president and his administration,” the lawmaker concluded.
Speaking to Turkish media this week, Kaidanow said that the State Department was negotiating with Ankara regarding its plans to acquire the Russian air defense system, and had expressed concerns that the purchase of the S-400s would serve as form of support for Russia. Buying Patriots, she said, would have a positive impact on the strategic partnership between Washington and Ankara.
Turkey’s relationship with the US has been strained over a number of issues over the last few years, including US support for the YPG militia in Syria, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist group, as well as Washington’s reluctance to extradite Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blamed for the July 2016 coup attempt.