Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said a defense bill signed into law by US President Donald Trump containing a provision suspending the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey has no meaning in practice, the T24 news website reported on Wednesday.
“Turkey already purchased the two of the F-35s. For the next two years, the jets will remain in the US, anyway, and our pilots will be trained to operate them during that period. That doesn’t mean a suspension,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with his Sudanese counterpart, Al-Dirdiri Muhammed Ahmed.
Çavuşoğlu said the US Department of Defense would draft a report on Turkey’s purchase of jets in the next 90 days and during that time there will be no delivery, also recalling that the department had opposed the legislation.
“Our advice to the US is to never use the leverage in their hands on Turkey or other nations as threats,” he added.
Turkey and the US remain in a standoff over the fate of Andrew Brunson, a pastor detained in Turkey who is accused of spying. Trump has called on Turkey to return Brunson to the US and has said the cleric is being persecuted for “no reason.”
In July, Brunson was moved to house arrest from pretrial detention, where he has been since October 2016.
Ankara was seeking to take delivery of at least 100 of the stealth jets. However, various legislators have cited a number of concerns with Turkey, including its plans to buy an advanced Russian air defense system, warming ties with Moscow and the arrest of US citizens and consulate staff, including Brunson.