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Erdogan: Turkey committed to Russian missile deal, US offer not 'as good'

'It is out of the question for us to take a step back,' Turkish president says of the defence deal with Moscow
Russia's S-400 Triumph air defence missile systems ride through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in May (AFP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was out of the question for Turkey to take a step back from its deal with Moscow to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

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Erdogan, who made the comments in response to questions from reporters following morning prayers, also said an offer from the United States to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey was not as good as the Russian offer.

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"There is a certain step that we took, there is an agreement here and we are committed to it," Erdogan said of the deal with Moscow. "It is out of the question for us to take a step back."

Erdogan's comments come as there appears to be confusion within the US government over whether it will participate in a joint technical study group with Turkey to investigate Washington's concerns over Ankara's purchase of the Russian systems.

Last week, official Turkish sources told Middle East Eye that US President Donald Trump had accepted an offer to form the group during a phone conversation with Erdogan. 

But on Friday, US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters he was unaware of the Turkish request to form a working group, but was speaking to his Turkish counterpart and they were "making progress on discussions" about the S-400.

Now a Turkish official tells MEE that despite the phone agreement, the Pentagon is "still resisting" its formation. MEE has asked the Pentagon to comment.

Last week, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told MEE that the US has already sent technical teams to Turkey more than once and also hosted meetings to discuss the threat posed by the S-400 purchase, the two countries participation in the F-35 programme and the US Patriot offer.

"We have been clear that purchasing the S-400 would create an unacceptable risk because its radar system could provide the Russian military sensitive information on the F-35. Those concerns cannot be mitigated," he said.

Turkey's deal to buy the Russian S-400s, which could be delivered within weeks, has alarmed Washington and Turkey's other Western Nato allies, who say the Russian system is incompatible with Nato's defence network and poses a threat to US F-35 fighter jets that Turkey also plans to buy.

Erdogan said Turkey had offered to set up groups with the United States to work together on the issue, without saying what Washington's response had been. He also said Turkey had also been discussing a US offer to sell Patriot missiles.

"However, unfortunately the US side has not given us an offer as good as the S-400s," he said.

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