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Russia: Turkey upholding S-400 deal despite continued US pressure

Washington recently suspended sale of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara over concerns related to deal with Moscow
Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 missile defence system totals about $2.5bn (AFP)

Russia's deputy prime minister said Turkey remains committed to purchasing the S-400 missile defence system despite strong objections from the United States, which earlier this week halted a sale of fighter jets to Ankara in opposition to its deal with Moscow.

Turkey "distinctively" fulfilled its contract with Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday, without divulging specific details, as reported by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

"We have no concerns," Borisov added, referring to whether Turkey will renege on its deal with Russia in favour of purchasing 100 US fighter jets.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made similar statements on Wednesday, saying the country should not have to choose between Russia and the US.

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In a visit to Washington, DC, for a NATO meeting marking the organisation's 70th anniversary on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said: "We don't see our relations with Russia as an alternative to our relations with others."

"Nobody, neither [the] West nor Russia, should or can ask us to choose between," he added, as quoted by Anadolu.

Cavusoglu's visit to Washington comes only days after the US decided to halt its sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, following the NATO ally's insistence on completing the major purchase from Russia.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence once again warned Turkey on Wednesday against buying Russia's anti-missile system, keeping up the pressure to abandon the purchase.

"Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?" Pence said in remarks at the NATO event in Washington, as quoted by Reuters.

After months of warnings, the US said that Turkey's decision to buy Russia's S-400 missile defence system was incompatible with the US warplane programme.

The US and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future.

The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the US and Turkey, including Turkish demands that the US government extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and US sanctions on Iran.

The fighter jet sale from the US to Turkey reportedly totalled about $12bn, while the S-400 defence system costs $2.5bn, NPR reported on Wednesday.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has also tried to dissuade Turkey from purchasing the Russian equipment by offering to sell the American-made Patriot missile defence system - the US counterpart to the S-400 - at a discounted rate.

That discount offer expired at the end of March. One day later, the US formally halted its F-35 sale to Turkey.