ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will not turn back from its acquisition of Russian S-400 defense systems despite U.S. sanctions, it said on Thursday.
In December, Washington imposed sanctions on Ankara for acquiring the S-400s on grounds they threaten its F-35 fighter jets and are incompatible with shared NATO defenses. Turkey rejects this and says the systems will stand independently from NATO defenses.
Since Joe Biden was elected U.S. president, Ankara has said it wants better ties and again proposed an S-400 joint working group. But Washington has repeatedly rejected that and says sanctions will remain until Turkey no longer possesses the missiles.
Turkey’s defense minister said on Tuesday that Ankara would propose only partially activating the S-400s in negotiations with the United States, according to local media.
Speaking in an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the minister’s comments had been misunderstood, adding talks were being held with Washington over disagreements, but that quick solutions to problems should not be expected.
"The United States has so far said it will not engage in any negotiations over this issue (S-400s). Turkey will not turn back from the Russian S-400 issue,” Kalin said.
"When we read the strategic picture the right way, we think we can make advances,” he said. "By proposing solution ways, we will be in negotiations,” he added.
The United States has also removed Turkey from its F-35 jet program, where Ankara was manufacturer and buyer, over the S-400s in mid-2019.
Turkey has said its purchase of the S-400s was a necessity, as it had no suitable alternatives from NATO allies.
In a phone call last week that marked the first official contact between the allies since Biden took office, Kalin told U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan the S-400 dispute needed to be resolved.
On Thursday, Kalin said he and Sullivan had agreed to hold another call in the coming days to specifically discuss their disagreements, adding that the two countries’ foreign ministers would also speak in the coming days.
The allies are at odds over several issues, from the S-400s to Turkey’s extradition request for a cleric it blames for a 2016 failed coup attempt, and several other issues.