Turkey calls on NATO ally US to fulfill its strategic partner role

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The modern F-35 fighter jet is being developed and built by US defence contractor Lockheed Martin for the US, the UK, Australia, Italy, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada in a project worth about $400 billion, making it the world's most expensive weapons programme. (AA)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on its NATO ally the US to act as a strategic partner instead of blocking its arms deals.

Erdogan made remarks on Saturday in response to US plans to block F-35 sales to Ankara.

“We say that the US is our strategic partner. As our strategic partner, the US should not say we should knock on another door,” he said.

“If we are strategic partners, if we are model partners, the US should not legally wrong us here,” he further noted.

“We are not interested with the Senate. There is only one thing that interests us. Have I discussed this with the president of the US? I have. Have we talked about this in our inter-delegation meeting? We have.” he commented.

On Wednesday, Turkey said it will look elsewhere to equip its air force if the United States blocks the sale of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets to Ankara.

Speaking to Turkish media Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Washington has not yet exerted any pressure on Ankara to cancel the deal after a US Senate committee last week passed its version of a $716-billion military policy bill, including a measure to prevent Turkey from purchasing the jets.

Washington cannot just pull out of the deal as it wishes, said Cavusolgu, stressing, “It is not the kind of agreement in which they (they US) can say they are not implementing.”

Ankara has committed to buying 116 of the warplanes under the US-led multinational Joint Strike Fighter program.

Israeli paper Ha’aretz recently cited an unnamed military official as saying that Tel Aviv was lobbying with Washington to make it leave performance-enhancing software out of the jets it could deliver to Ankara.

Turkey’s domestic media outlets have, meanwhile, reported that Ankara could opt to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-57 twin-engine warplanes if Washington decides to suspend the delivery of F-35 jets.

In May, a US Senate committee passed a defense policy bill that bars the sale of advanced F-35 warplanes to NATO partner Turkey, faulting Ankara for its purchase of an air defense system from Russia.

The amendment to the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed on Thursday, was proposed by Democratic Senator from Michigan Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Senator for North Carolina Thom Tillis.

It removed Turkey from the F-35 program over its S-400 purchase from Russia as well as imprisonment of an American Christian pastor in Turkey on spying and terrorism charges.

Turkey has said the S-400 system would boost its defense capabilities in the face of threats from Kurdish and Daesh-linked militants as well as conflicts across its borders in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Ankara has also vowed to take retaliatory measures in case Washington enacts a law blocking weapons sales to Turkey, a key partner in the US-led NATO military alliance.

Ankara’s move to purchase S-400s — deemed incompatible with the NATO systems — has also unnerved some other NATO member nations, prompting NATO officials to warn Turkey of unspecified consequences.

US-Turkey ties have been seriously on the decline in recent months over a host of issues, including Washington’s policy of backing Kurdish militants in Syria and a number of legal cases against Turkish and American nationals being held in the two countries.

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