Turkey ready to address US concerns over S-400s: defense minister

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. AFP PHOTOS

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that Ankara is ready to address concerns raised by the United States over its use of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

“We are ready to address the US concerns over the technical compatibility of the S-400s with the F-35,” Akar said during a parliamentary committee meeting on the 2021 budget.

The US has strongly objected to NATO member Turkey’s purchase of a missile system produced by Russia, a country deemed an adversary by the US, and in July 2019 removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program, arguing that the S-400s are a threat to the stealth fighter jets and would not be interoperable with NATO systems.

Reminding of Turkey’s proposal for a joint commission with Washington to clarify technical issues with regard to the compatibility of the systems, Akar asserted that Turkey “will use S-400 air defense system the same way S-300 systems are used by some members within the NATO alliance.”

NATO, like the US, argues that S-400s pose a risk to Allied aircraft.

“This is a national decision for Turkey to make, but the S-400s cannot be integrated into NATO’s air and missile defense system,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference during a visit to Ankara in October.

Akar noted that Turkey would continue with the inspection and preparation process of the S-400 system “as planned.”

Reports of the S-400 air defense system deployed to the city of Sinop on the Black Sea coast emerged early in October following an exclusive report by Turkish Minute citing a piece of official correspondence.

The document seen by Turkish Minute included details of a test to be conducted at the Sinop Missile Range that aimed “to ensure the engagement capability of the S-400 weapons system, the detection and tracking capability of the system’s radars, the communications system capabilities, and the control of the firing and command control capabilities.”

Following the revelation, videos of the S-400 tests in the Black Sea province of Sinop circulated on Twitter on October 16, sparking a series of condemnations from the Pentagon, the US State Department and some US lawmakers.

Initially staying silent, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed on October 23 that the Turkish military conducted a missile-firing exercise of the S-400, drawing further US condemnation as the Pentagon warned Ankara of “serious consequences.”

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