President Donald Trump bemoaned Tuesday that U.S. will not sell Turkey advanced F-35 fighter jets over Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-air system, blaming his predecessor for the row.
“We have a situation where Turkey is very good with us, and we are now telling Turkey that because you have really been forced to buy another missile system we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
“It’s a very tough situation that they’re in. And it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in the United States,” added Trump.
The Trump administration had threatened to expel Turkey from the F-35 fighter program if it acquired the S-400 from Russia, warning the anti-air system could be used by Moscow to covertly attain secret information on the stealth fighter.
The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said a twelfth Russian plane with the anti-air parts landed at Murted airfield outside Ankara on Tuesday.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara signed a contract in 2017 to purchase the S-400s from Russia.
Trump blamed the ongoing row over the F-35 on the Obama administration, whom he said created the problem by not allowing the Turkish government to purchase Patriot missile systems.
“Turkey’s also ordered over 100 F-35 planes,” Trump said, “and they have plans to order more, but because they have a system of missiles that are made in Russia they’re now prohibited from buying over a hundred planes.”
“We’re working through it. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not really fair,” he added.
The U.S. halted in June training for Turkish pilots as a step in winding down Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.
Washington has also threatened sanctions over Turkey’s purchase, with Ankara responding that any sanctions would be met in kind.