By Can Erozden
Turkey is protecting its own interests in purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defense system, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Thursday.
"Turkey is doing what is necessary for its own interests regarding the S-400 missile defense system, it is making its own decision and choice," Oktay told Anadolu Agency's Editors’ Desk.
Turkey will not back out of buying the Russian S-400, as it signed a contract, he said.
“In any case [on the S-400 purchase], we will do what it requires, especially as we signed a deal,” he said.
"We are expecting to receive the first delivery of the S-400 missile system in July," he added.
On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that Ankara had finalized an agreement on buying the S-400s.
"We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians, and will start co-production,” said Erdogan, speaking in a televised interview.
"Later, we may work with S-500s," the next generation system, he said.
U.S. officials have suggested that Turkey should buy U.S. Patriot missiles rather than the Russian system, arguing the S-400 is incompatible with NATO systems.
However, Turkish officials said that Turkey will not go back on its agreement with Russia, even if it were to buy Patriots in addition.
Turkey could start counter-terrorist operation in Syria at any time
Oktay said the Turkish army is ready to launch a promised counter-terrorist operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
"Turkey will do what is necessary and it will never allow any terror presence or threat there," he said.
"If there is a threat, we say, 'We’re ready. We'll do it in Manbij [Syria] as well’," he added.
"As our president previously announced, we are ready. This shows our preparation level and determination. Our preparation levels are military and political. These preparations were ready yesterday and are ready today. Turkey is putting its cards on the table," Oktay said.
He added: "One of the main actors in this region, the U.S. announced their withdrawal. This is a development which will change the rules of the game."
He said the U.S. will withdraw from the region in a way coordinated with Turkey, as U.S. President Donald Trump told Erdogan.
Following two similar successful operations since 2016, Turkey has vowed to carry out a counter-terrorist operation in Manbij and east of the Euphrates in northern Syria against the terrorist group YPG/PKK.
In its 30-year terrorist campaign, the PKK -- recognized as a terror group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.
'Only Turkey is fighting Daesh'
Oktay said that the only country fighting the Daesh terror group is Turkey, as its army battled Daesh in Operation Euphrates Shield and Al-Bab, Syria.
"We fought Daesh directly in the field,” he said.
Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, including Al-Bab, Afrin and Azaz, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence there to return home.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.