Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday said Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems does not mean the country is turning its back on NATO, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Turkey and the United States have sparred for months over Ankara’s plans to purchase the Russian missile system, with the hard line against the purchase taken by U.S. Congress prompting speculation that it could push Turkey away from NATO.
“Turkey fulfils all NATO’s requirements. We’re not moving away from NATO by purchasing S-400 missiles. This is a supply issue,” Anadolu quoted Akar as saying at a military graduation ceremony in the capital city of Ankara.
Washington has given Ankara until the end of July to reverse course on its planned purchase of Russian S-400s, stating that it will remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme if it goes through with the deal. The United States and its NATO allies see it as incompatible with NATO systems and posing a security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter.
“We strongly reject linking this matter with the [U.S.] F-35. We’re partners with nine countries on the F-35 project,” Akar said.
Despite U.S. and NATO officials’ objections, Ankara maintains that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would therefore not pose a threat to the alliance.