Turkey said on Wednesday it would retaliate against any US sanctions over its purchase of a Russian defense system, adding that it had agreed with Britain to speed up a joint fighter jet program to meet Turkish defense needs, Reuters reported.
US lawmakers will vote — and likely pass — a defense bill later on Wednesday that calls for sanctions against Turkey over Ankara’s decision to procure the S-400 defense system.
Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, have been at odds over the purchase.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and cannot be integrated into NATO defenses. In response, it has suspended Turkey from the F-35 jet program, where it was a manufacturer and a buyer, and threatened sanctions.
In an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said any US sanctions would harm US-Turkish ties and repeated a threat of retaliation.
“US lawmakers must understand they will get nowhere by imposing [sanctions]. If the United States approaches us with a positive attitude, we will also react positively. But if they take negative stance against us, then we will retaliate,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“In the event of a decision to sanction Turkey, the İncirlik and Kürecis airbases of US can be brought to the agenda,” he said.
Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over a host of issues in recent years. Turkey has been enraged with US support for the Syrian Kurdish militia, which Çavuşoğlu called the “financing of terrorism” on Wednesday.
He added that Turkey was open to alternatives to buying the F-35 jets, including from Russia. He said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had discussed speeding up work on the TF-X joint fighter jet project to meet Turkey’s defense needs.
“We bought the S-400s because the most suitable offer on air defense systems came from Russia. Until we produce it ourselves, the alternative to the F-35 could be the Russian market, but we are open to other alternatives, too,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey and Britain agreed on a 100 million pound ($133 million) deal in 2017 to develop Turkish fighter jets, and Turkey’s Kale Group said it was setting up a joint venture with Rolls-Royce to work on the project. In March Rolls-Royce said it had scaled back efforts to join the program.
A Turkish source said the disagreement with Rolls-Royce stemmed from licensing issues, which are “critical and indispensable” for Turkey. But the source said talks had been revived and added that Turkey expected the project to advance after a solution was reached.