Turkish foreign minister: Defense deal with Russia 'done' despite US threats

Turkey’s foreign minister on Wednesday said that his country will “definitely” go through with buying a Russian air defense system despite U.S. moves to halt Ankara’s participation in the F-35 fighter jet program in response.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said “it’s not sure yet” whether the United States will withhold the F-35s, suggesting President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE indicated to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Ankara could still get the jets.


“S-400 deal is a done deal, and we will not step back from this,” Çavuşoğlu said during an event in Washington on Wednesday.

“Trump himself admitted on the phone that the U.S. made the mistake not to sell Patriots to Turkey, and he promised Erdoğan that he will take care of this issue,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the phone call took place “recently.”

The comments from Çavuşoğlu, who is in Washington as part of NATO’s 70th anniversary celebration, are the first on the issue from a Turkish official since the Pentagon announced Monday it was suspending deliveries and other activities related to Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

The Pentagon move was the latest effort to ramp up pressure on Turkey to abandon its deal with Moscow to buy an S-400 long-range air defense system.

A day after the Pentagon's announcement, acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE expressed confidence Turkey would change its mind about the S-400 and ultimately receive the F-35s.

The Trump administration has been trying to convince Turkey to buy the U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile system instead, offering Ankara a discount.

U.S. officials are worried about the F-35, the United States’ most advanced aircraft, operating in close proximity with the S-400 and allowing the Russians to gather information about U.S. capabilities.

The United States and other NATO allies have also warned the S-400 system will not work with NATO defense systems.

Çavuşoğlu dismissed those concerns Wednesday, saying that the S-400 “doesn’t have to be integrated into the NATO system” because “it’s for our own use” and that Turkey has proposed to the United States a “technical working group to make sure that this system will not be a threat” to the F-35 or other NATO systems.

Çavuşoğlu blamed Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 on the Obama administration not selling Ankara the Patriot system. But he also said the Trump administration’s offer fell short of a guarantee that Turkey would get the Patriot.

Çavuşoğlu also highlighted that parts of the F-35 are built in Turkey, saying Turkey has “fulfilled all obligations.”

“We are a part of this program, so it shouldn’t be that simple,” he said. 

The Pentagon’s announcement Monday said the department is looking for alternatives for the Turkish-made parts.