Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he sees an improvement in talks with the United States over the purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems and US F-35 fighter jets, but added that Ankara was also preparing for potential US sanctions.
Turkey and the United States are at odds over Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400s, which cannot be integrated into NATO systems. Washington says the move would jeopardize Ankara’s role in building Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, which it says would be compromised by the S-400s.
Speaking to reporters late on Tuesday, Akar said that Turkey was fulfilling its responsibilities in the F-35 project and that Ankara expected the program to continue as planned. He said talks with US officials were still underway.
He also said Turkey was evaluating a US offer to purchase the Raytheon Co. Patriot systems, adding that Ankara and Washington were working on price, technology transfer, joint production issues on the latest offer from US officials.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the US position regarding the S-400 system had not changed.
“We’re clearly willing to engage with them and have continued to engage regarding our concerns on this acquisition, but there will be very real and very negative consequences if that happens,” she told reporters.
The Kremlin on Wednesday condemned as “unacceptable” what is called a US ultimatum to Turkey to cancel the S-400 deal. A CNBC report on Tuesday said Washington had given Turkey just over two weeks to scrap the Russian deal and buy Patriots or face removal from the F-35 program and US sanctions.
The State Department declined specific comment on the CNBC report, but a department official said negative consequences to Turkey if it went ahead with the S-400 included suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 program and sanctions under CAATSA.
The German government said Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 system raised difficult questions for NATO and it would welcome Ankara reconsidering the decision.