Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned down a call by the U.S. to scrap a deal to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense systems, saying Washington should not conflate the issue of Ankara’s procurement of defense systems with the two NATO allies’ cooperation in Syria, Hurriyet Daily reported.
Turkey had to seek alternative air defense systems and has reached an agreement for the procurement of the Russian S-400 systems at a time when the country needed the equipment amid increasing risks on its border but could not find support from its allies, the president said on Feb. 18 at a rally in the southwestern province of Burdur.
“We asked Western allies for the delivery of air defense systems, but the existing systems were withdrawn let alone giving a new one,” Erdoğan said, referring to the U.S.’s Patriot systems deployed in southern Turkey to protect its borders from threats it says it feels exposed to across the Syrian border.
Erdoğan did not directly point to the U.S., but insinuated that “Turkey’s ally” was trying to convince it to change its mind on the issue of the Russian missile defense systems.
“Having the S-400 from Russia is an outcome of this pursuit. Now you tell us to give up purchasing the S-400 [systems],” he stated.
“You don’t provide us joint production and financial support,” Erdoğan said, referring to Turkey’s ongoing talks with the U.S. to purchase the American Patriot air defense systems which Washington conditioned for Ankara to abandon the S-400 systems.
“It’s unacceptable to criticize Turkey with this argument,” he said.
Erdoğan also urged the U.S. not to link the issue of the procurement of the Russian missile defense system with a deal on the Syrian city of Manbij. “We will never accept to associate this issue with the steps we agreed to take in Syria. We expect the administration of Manbij to be left to its locals. We expect [the U.S.] to end support to the terrorists in the east of Euphrates,” he said, referring to the YPG’s presence in the region.