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Erdogan vows to retaliate if the US imposes S-400 sanctions

Turkish president bullish over Ankara's purchase of Russian air defence system, suggesting he can work his relationship with Trump to overcome crisis
Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 system has created a diplomatic crisis (AFP)
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Istanbul

Turkey will retaliate with its own measures if the United States follows through with threatened sanctions against Ankara over its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

Speaking to two dozen journalists from foreign outlets in a closed session, Erdogan said Turkey wouldn’t step back from the S-400 purchase.

“Over 100 staff members of the Turkish military have completed their training in [Russia]. The military has already decided where to deploy the systems. They will begin to arrive in the first two weeks of July,” he said.

Several US government officials, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have previously warned that Turkey's purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system would have consequences, and is sanctionable under a US law known as CAATSA.

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The US argues that the S-400's technology could compromise its security as a fellow NATO ally, and has begun measures pulling Turkey out of the production of F-35 fighter jets.

“There are sanctions as a topic of discussion on the table, yet we don’t know the content. This is why I don’t believe the US is going to sanction us. But if they do, we will sanction them in return,” Erdogan said, without elaborating about the measures.

Erdogan also criticized US lawmakers who threaten Turkey with sanctions over the sale.

“We conducted our own study on S-400 radars. It doesn’t harm F-35 jets. We had good relations both with Democrats and Republicans. They should know that losing Turkey [as an ally] wouldn’t be easy. I believe they will be more sensitive,” he said.

He also complained that Washigton's offer of rival US Patriot missiles wasn’t as good as the Russian one. “The claim that the US had offered a good deal is a complete lie,” he said.

The Pentagon announced the suspension of training of Turkish F-35 pilots earlier this month and also sent a letter addressed to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar laying down a timetable to exclude Ankara from the programme if Turkey goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.

'I can talk to Trump and resolve any issue. However, lower-level US officials disagree with him'

- Recep Tayyip Erdogan

US officials have told Middle East Eye in the past that S-400 radar could collect sensitive data on the F-35, and cripple its stealth tech.

Turkey has paid over $1.25bn for 100 F-35 jets. 

"We will go to international arbitration to claim our rights. No one should doubt that,” Erdogan said. “We will buy jets from other countries and produce our own.”

Turkish officials are hopeful that Erdogan can use what he calls a “good relationship” with US President Donald Trump to soothe relations between the two countries when they meet on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Japan later this month.

“I can talk to Trump and resolve any issue. However, lower-level US officials disagree with him. They cannot also work with officials on our side. We will tell Trump my opinion on the topic. I expect that he will be sympathethic,” Erdogan said.