Turkey says missile defense systems from US, Eurosam still a goal

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Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launching system is displayed at the exposition field in Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow on August 22, 2017 during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2017. / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV

Turkey is continuing to hold talks with the Franco-Italian Eurosam consortium and the United States to buy missile defense systems, Ankara’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday, according to a report by Reuters.

Turkey and Russia in December signed a $2.5 billion agreement for Moscow to supply Ankara with an S-400 surface-to-air missile system, finalizing a deal that will deepen military ties between NATO member Turkey and the Kremlin.

“The system we are buying from Russia cannot be integrated into NATO systems, but we are maintaining our goal of developing a system that is compatible with NATO,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters on Friday.

In January, Turkey awarded Eurosam an 18-month contract for a study to explore the development and production of a long-range air and missile defense system, in a move towards closer defense cooperation with France and Italy.

“Our cooperation with Eurosam is in line with this goal. On the other hand, we are continuing our talks for Patriot systems with the US,” Aksoy said.

The S-400 deal has caused concern in the West because Turkey is a member of NATO and the system cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture.

Turkish President Recep Erdoğan announced in September that Ankara had signed a deal with Russia to buy an S-400 missile defense system despite opposition from NATO allies.

Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael said the US had relayed its concerns to Turkish officials over the purchase. Michael said that a NATO inter-operable missile defense system was the best option for defending Turkey from the full range of threats in the region.

NATO also stated in September that Turkey had not informed the alliance of the details of its agreement to purchase an S-400 air defense system from Russia.

On Aug. 1, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that Ankara procuring an S-400 anti-missile system from Russia concerns the Pentagon.

“Our only concern about it is one of interoperability. Turkey is a NATO ally. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea for allies to buy interoperable equipment,” said Davis, expressing Pentagon concerns about the damage Russian-made systems could cause to US joint operations with NATO ally Turkey.

Pentagon officials said their concern is about the potential of confusion on the battlefield between Ankara and alliance members due to the use of Russian systems by a NATO ally.

Reacting to critics from the West, Erdoğan in July said “Greece, a member of NATO, has been using the S-300 for years.”

“You [NATO] neither share technology and respond to demands for joint production, nor present an offer that is financially effective. Hence, you are not in a position to say ‘Don’t buy a non-NATO system’,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said in a statement in April.

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