US foreign policy

Turkey hints at compromise with US over Russian S-400 missile system

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Turkey might be willing to not fully deploy the Russian air defense system whose purchase led to US sanctions, the defense minister said in comments published on Tuesday.

The United States wants Turkey to decommission the S-400 missiles, which were originally built to target NATO hardware and acquired by Ankara in July 2019.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Hurriyet daily that he was open to a compromise similar to the one Greece reached following its purchase of Russia’s older S-300 defense system in 1997.

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Greece put the S-300s on the Greek island of Crete in 1999, after Turkey threatened to attack Cyprus.

“We’ve said this before, whatever the model used for the S-300 on Crete, we’re open to negotiating,” Akar said.

“It’s not as if we’ll always use them. These systems are used according to the state of threats. We will make decisions based on that,” Akar said, when told by the paper that the Greek S-300s are “not always operational.”

Russian S-400 missile defense system are seen near Ankara, Turkey. (File photo: Reuters)
Russian S-400 missile defense system are seen near Ankara, Turkey. (File photo: Reuters)

Ankara’s purchase has put extra strain on US-Turkey relations, which have also been complicated by the conflict in Syria.

The US responded first by suspending Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 fighter jet program before hitting Turkey’s military procurement agency with sanctions in December.

Although Akar has urged dialogue to resolve the issue, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month said talks with Russia on a second batch of the missiles were set to continue.

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