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Monday, 2019-07-08 14:17:48
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A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Although leaders of the US and Turkey have promoted diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions in the relations between the two allies, the two sides still insist on their own interests. The US refusal to deliver F-35 fighter jets to Turkey due to the fact that Ankara continued to acquire the Russian S-400 missile defence system has deeply damaged the US-Turkish relations.

In an editorial recently published by Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, Turkish President T. Erdogan harshly criticised the US for Washington’s refusal to hand over the F-35s to Ankara. He even described the act as a “robbery”. “If you have a customer and that customer is making payments like clockwork, how can you not give that customer their goods? The name for that would be robbery,” Hurriyet newspaper quoted President T. Erdogan. He said that Turkey had so far paid US$1.4 billion for the F-35s and those four jets had been handed over, with Turkish pilots going to the US for training.

Strong criticism by President T. Erdogan was attributed to Ankara's grievance against Washington’s seemingly sudden move despite diplomatic efforts from the Turkish side. After meeting US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a recent G20 summit in Japan, President T. Erdogan said the US would not impose sanctions on Ankara. Because at this meeting, US President D. Trump blamed the administration of former President B. Obama for placing conditions on Turkey’s purchase of Patriot missiles, causing Ankara to turn to a plan to buy Russia's S-400 defence system. He revealed that the US was facing a complicated situation in response to this, and said sanctions are being discussed. However, President D. Trump also admitted that this would be “a double-edged sword” and the two sides were looking at different solutions.

Although asserting Turkey’s S-400 deal as “a problem” and “there’s no question about it”, US President D. Trump stressed that he wanted this to be solved without affecting bilateral relations. The head of the White House added that Turkey "has been a friend" of the US. “We are doing great things together. We are big trading partners. We are going to be much bigger”, he noted. With the diplomatic words of US President D. Trump, Turkey hopes Washington will find a different approach to this issue, aiming to reduce tensions between the two countries.

The S-400 deal was a major controversy between the US and Turkey. Washington repeatedly warned that the Russian systems are both incompatible with NATO defence systems and pose a security threat. However, Turkey insisted that the S-400 system would be separate from NATO infrastructure in Turkey, with no linkages to the F-35s, and expressed a determination to pursue contracts with Russia. The Turkish President said it would start receiving the S-400 air defence systems in July.

Turkey’s insistence on pursuing the S-400 deal has made it difficult for President T. Erdogan to ease anger from the US. US acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, in which he had outlined how Turkey would pull out of the F-35 fighter jet programme unless Ankara changed course from its plans to purchase the Russian missile defence system. Ankara had until July 31 to abandon the purchase of S-400, otherwise; Ankara would not be able to continue with the purchase of roughly 100 US' F-35 fighter jets and Turkish pilots would be suspended from the training programme for this most modern of aircrafts. Washington also warned that it would impose sanctions on Ankara if Turkey still bought Russia’s weapon system.

The Turkish President has pledged to use his good relationship with his US counterpart to reduce tensions between the two sides. However, the disagreements related to the S-400 deal are still considered a rift in the two countries' relations. President D. Trump was also under pressure as the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on the US government to impose sanctions on Turkey if Ankara received the Russian S-400 defence system. Clearly, recent moves taken by the US have expressed Washington’s dissatisfaction over Ankara’s determination to pursue a defence contract that is believed to be harm to NATO allies.