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USA defense chief hints Turkey will drop S-400 bid

USA defense chief hints Turkey will drop S-400 bid

The initial delivery of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system will start in June as planned before, a Turkish official said on April 4 amid mounting US pressure for the annulment of the deal between Turkey and Russia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared unmoved by the USA threats, saying the purchase of the S-400 system "is a done deal".

The US is at an inflexion point in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, after failing to sway President Tayyip Erdogan that buying a Russian air defence system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

Anther Pentagon spokesperson said Turkish pilots would continue training on F-35s in Arizona despite Pentagon decision to suspend delivery of parts.

Another Turkish leader, Vice President Fuat Oktay, lashed back at Pence's remarks - saying it was Washington that must decide whether it wants to remain an ally of Ankara. "And nobody, neither the West nor Russian Federation, should or can ask us to choose between", he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan expressed optimism to reporters Tuesday, following a conversation with his Turkish counterpart, that Ankara would ultimately accept the Patriot air defense system that Washington has offered as an alternative.

Turkey has continued to maintain that it has the right under worldwide law to defend against national security threats including any potential danger posed in northern Syria.

The United States is taking active efforts to prevent Turkey from purchasing Russia's S-400 air defense systems.

"Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?"

This week, Washington announced it was halting deliveries of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara walked back on its deal with Moscow.

The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran. "Still, too many others are falling short, and as we all acknowledge, Germany is chief among them", Vice President Pence said, according to The Hill, and urged Germany to stop its work on the Russia-Europe pipeline. In a letter to leading appropriators, House members called for fresh language last week restricting United States funding to support the jets if Turkey buys the S-400.

Turkey and Trump administration need to explain to the US Congress why Ankara had to go through with the purchase from the Russians, Cavusoglu added. Officials have said that Turkey's acquisition of both USA and Russian systems could give Moscow access to sophisticated American technology and allow it to find ways to counter the F-35. "Sure. But I wish we would have heard more about what Germany has done for our collective security", including deploying troops to the new task forces in the Baltics.

The U.S. had agreed to sell Turkey 100 of the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin, initially planning to deliver two aircraft to Turkey in June.

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