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Turkey reaffirms commitment to Russian S-400 defense system

March 29, 2019
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Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov pose for photographs prior to their meeting in the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, Turkey, Friday, March 29, 2019. The two ministers attending the Turkey - Russia Joint Strategic Group Meeting comes ahead of municipal elections scheduled to be held across Turkey on Sunday March 31. (Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)
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Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov pose for photographs prior to their meeting in the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, Turkey, Friday, March 29, 2019. The two ministers attending the Turkey - Russia Joint Strategic Group Meeting comes ahead of municipal elections scheduled to be held across Turkey on Sunday March 31. (Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday his country is committed to a deal to purchase advanced Russian surface-to-air missile defense system, despite warnings from Washington that the deal could put the NATO member country’s participation in the U.S. F-35 fighter aircraft program at risk.

Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400 air defense systems from Russia has increased already tense ties between the two NATO allies, including over the war in Syria. The U.S. has issued repeated warnings to Turkey over the planned purchase, arguing that the Russian system may pose a security threat to the high-tech F-35s.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ruled out the possibility of Turkey selling the S-400s to another country as suggested by some analysts as a compromise solution.

Cavusoglu also insisted Turkey had met all of its obligations concerning the F-35 program.

“As a principle it is contrary to international laws for a third country to oppose an agreement between two countries,” Cavusoglu said. “We are committed to this agreement. There can be no such thing as selling to a third country. We are buying them for our own needs.”

Cavusoglu added that Turkey and Russia were discussing delivery dates.

The U.S. had agreed to sell 100 of its latest, fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Turkey, and has so far delivered two of the aircraft. But Congress last year ordered a delay in future deliveries.

Earlier this month, the top U.S. military commander for Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told the U.S. Congress that Turkey should reconsider its plan to buy the S-400 from Russia or forfeit other future American military aircraft and systems.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed such threats and has even said Turkey could consider purchasing the more advanced Russian S-500 system in the future.

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