Turkey is expecting to receive Russian S-400 air defense batteries by June, the country’s defense minister said Monday in Washington.
Speaking at the 37th annual conference of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, Turkey-U.S. Business Council, and American-Turkish Council, Hulusi Akar said the date had been offered by Moscow in the latest meetings on the systems’ delivery.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.
U.S. officials have advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing that the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Akar underlined that the decades-long cooperation between Ankara and Washington in military affairs as well as other fields was important and that current efforts to resolve outstanding issues between the two allies would continue.
"It will be us who solve these problems, not anybody else," Akar said, stressing that dialogue was essential.
"At times, there have been serious misunderstandings and inaccurate expressions.
"While these may sometimes occur naturally, they may also be consciously uttered to mislead," he said, adding that any detail may be critical in the decisions of policymakers.
Akar said Turkey was currently trying to use "all means" to ensure the security of its 82 million people against the air and missile threats directed at the country.
He stressed that Turkey would not integrate the S-400 into NATO defense systems deployed on its territory, not Turkish hardware connected to the alliance’s network.
"They will probably be used in the defense of Ankara and Istanbul," Akar said, referring to Turkey’s capital city and its most populous province.
He underlined that the missile batteries and F-35 fighter jets that Ankara jointly developed with other NATO countries and is currently awaiting their delivery would not be positioned close to each other.
Washington had warned that if Turkey went through with the Russian purchase, the S-400 system might covertly obtain critical information on the F-35 jets, including their detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
"There are S-400 missiles located in Syria while F-35s are located nearby in Israel. There are similar situations in the Baltic countries as well," Akar said.
Akar emphasized that Turkey would need many air defense systems if it was to control its airspace in its entirety, referring to recent airborne terrorist attacks from Syrian territory.
"Terrorists are attaching explosives onto improvised aircrafts and using them against our people," Akar said.
He underlined that Turkey respected Syria’s territorial integrity and had "no intention" of occupying its lands.
Akar highlighted that Turkey's main concern is the risk, threat and danger coming posed by terrorist groups.
Turkey’s decision to make a $2.5-million purchase of two S-400 air defense systems with four batteries from Russia culminated in an agreement signed by both sides on Dec. 29, 2017.
This led to strong opposition from the U.S. which stipulated that Turkey scrap the deal as a precondition to its own sale of Patriot defense systems to Ankara.
Turkey has vehemently rejected Washington’s calls, with Erdogan saying on April 3 that the purchase was a decision for Turkey to make.
The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying targets including ballistic and cruise missiles.
The system can track and engage up to 300 targets at a time and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers (17 miles).
Turkey first joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2002 and has invested more than $1.25 billion. It also manufactures various aircraft parts for all F-35 variants and customers.
The two F-35s already delivered to Turkey are currently at Luke Air Force Base, where Turkish pilots are being trained. The jets were scheduled to be transferred to Turkey in November this year.
*Writing by Dilara Hamit