Turkey has once again defied US calls to abandon a deal for the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, repeating an offer for a NATO-led working group to resolve the long-running dispute with Washington.
Speaking at a virtual event organized by the Washington-based Atlantic Council on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey’s stance on how to settle the S-400 issue had 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,” he said.
In September 2017, Ankara signed a $2.5 billion deal with Moscow to procure the S-400, a Russian-made mobile surface-to-air defense system which is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, and can also be used against ground installations.
The delivery of S-400 launchers began in July 2019, infuriating the US, which had long warned that Turkey cannot have both the S-400 and American Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The US claimed that the S-400 defense systems were incompatible with NATO equipment and could expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.
The S-400 deal prompted Washington to threaten sanctions against Ankara and suspend Turkish involvement in its F-35 jet program.