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S-400: Turkey intends to buy more Russian defence systems, says Erdogan

President Tayyip Erdogan's announcement comes after repeated warnings from Washington against Turkey's plans to continue future shipments of the defence systems
A Russian military cargo plane unloading an S-400 system at the Murted military airbase in Ankara on 12 July 2019 (AFP/File photo)

Turkey still intends to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia despite US warnings, President Tayyip Erdogan has said. 

Erdogan, in a CBS News interview on Sunday, said that he had no plans to cancel Turkey's second order of Russian S-400s, a move that could deepen a rift with Nato ally Washington and trigger fresh US sanctions.

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"In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level," Erdogan said. 

"Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions."

Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to Nato's broader defence systems. But Turkey says it was unable to procure air defence systems from any Nato ally on satisfactory terms.

The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey's Defence Industry Directorate, its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees in December following the country's acquisition of the first batch of S-400s.

Talks between Russia and Turkey about the delivery of a second batch have continued, with Washington repeatedly warning that such a move would almost certainly trigger new sanctions.

Erdogan will visit Russia next week to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria.

Biden and Turkey's human rights record

Erdogan also said that US President Joe Biden never raised the issue of Turkey's human rights track record, seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups, confirming a Reuters report from earlier this month.

Asked whether Biden brought up the issue during their June meeting on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Brussels, Erdogan said: "No he didn't. And because we don't have any problems of that nature in terms of freedoms, Turkey is incomparably free," he said.

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Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), while Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Erdogan's authoritarian rule has consolidated by passing legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations.

US and Turkish sources told Reuters earlier this month that Biden, who has repeatedly said promoting human rights worldwide lies at the heart of his foreign policy, did not bring up the issue of human rights in his meeting with Erdogan. The discussion focused on Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400s.

Turkish officials took it as a signal Washington would not push hard over human rights, the sources said, despite repeated public criticism from the Biden administration of Ankara’s treatment of opposition groups and its official recognition that the 1915 killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire was genocide.