Turkey has vowed to retaliate if the United States sanctions Russian S-400 missile purchase, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a diplomatic meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington early this week.
"If the United States imposes sanctions on us or takes such a step, Turkey will absolutely retaliate," Cavusoglu said Sunday. "What needs to be done is the US needs to let go of this."
According to Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey instead suggested joint work with the U.S. to look into potential consequences of the deployment of S-400s and to address U.S. concerns on the safety of NATO aircrafts.
In talks with U.S. officials, Turkey made clear its sensitivity in not putting NATO allies’ aircrafts in danger through the weapon systems it acquires from non-NATO sources. They also stress that it has not opted for a nine-month quick delivery option offered by Russia.
“If we had accepted a nine-month delivery option then we would have no control on the use of S-400s. They would be used only by Russian experts, as national software would not be ready to be uploaded. Instead, we have chosen the 19-month option so that we could prepare our technical works and use them under fully Turkish control. We are very sensitive on this,” officials were quoted as saying.
Following Turkey’s firm stance on the purchase of these systems, U.S. officials hinted that “Turkey should not use the S-400s even if it does buy them from Russia,” while Turkish diplomatic sources said this was not a realistic expectation.
During the talks with Turkish officials, the US officials revisited attempts to sell Patriot air defense systems in place of the S-400s.
However, Turkey said it could consider procuring these systems from the U.S. on the condition that the administration could assure congressional approval.
Turkey signed an agreement with Russia in December to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries as part of Ankara's plans to boost its defence capabilities amid threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.
The move to buy S-400s, which are incompatible with the NATO systems, has unnerved NATO member countries, which are already wary of Moscow's military presence in the Middle East, prompting NATO officials to warn Turkey of unspecified consequences.