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Russia-Ukraine war: Erdogan says US suggestion to deploy S-400s would only 'stir trouble'

The Turkish president confirms Ankara rejected the idea, saying Washington is looking for ways to put his country in distress
Turkish Defence Ministry photo shows a Russian military cargo plane carrying the S-400 missile defence system from Russia on 12 July 2019 (AFP)
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Turkey's president dismissed on Friday the reported US suggestion to Ankara to deploy its Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems to Ukraine, calling it an attempt to "stir up trouble". 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed to reporters accompanying him to a Nato summit in Brussels that the American idea was rejected.

"The S-400s are our property and this issue is a closed case," Erdogan said.  

He added the suggestion showed Americans were looking for ways to harass Ankara on the issue.

"They are in an effort on how to strike Turkey on this issue and put it in trouble," he said. 

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Last week, it was reported that the US informally raised with Turkey the possibility of sending S-400s to Ukraine to help it fight invading Russian forces.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman floated the idea with Turkish officials earlier this month in Ankara. 

In return, the US would remove sanctions imposed on Ankara in 2020 over its purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

It would also open the way to re-admit Turkey into the F-35 fighter jet programme, which Ankara was expelled from over the S-400s. 

Turkish officials brushed off the proposition as unrealistic. Some even questioned the goodwill of the US, saying the move would only serve to strain relations with Russia.

F-16 talks

Erdogan also said talks with the US over the purchase of new F-16 jets and kits were going well.

Washington was showing a positive attitude towards requests made in September for 40 F-16s and 80 modernisation kits, Erdogan told reporters. 

"US President Joe Biden told me that he would present a supportive [view] to the US Congress and he would track this issue,” he said.

The Turkish military had expected to acquire fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets from the US.

Once Ankara was excluded from that programme, it had to move to update its rapidly ageing F-16 fleet. 

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president's communications director, wrote on Wednesday in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal: "What the West must do is deliver the F-35 fighter jets and Patriot batteries to Turkey without preconditions."

The article was in response to another opinion piece that suggested Turkey should send Ukraine the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system, which would "repair the relationship between the US and Turkey" and pave the way for Ankara to rejoin the F-35 programme and obtain the Patriot systems.

Altun said that while such a deal was "quite unrealistic today, this idea presents an opportunity to discuss the problems Turkey has experienced lately with the West".

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