Turkey says 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 on Wednesday 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.
Turkey is a member of the US-led NATO military alliance, but Washington-Ankara ties have in recent years grown tense over Washington’s military support for anti-Ankara Kurdish militants in Syria.
The Turkish military invaded Syria in January after the US announced plans for a Kurdish militant force at the Turkish doorstep.
The invasion ousted US-backed Kurdish militants from the northern Syria region of Afrin. The military then began advancing towards the nearby region of Manbij, where American forces are also present, warning that the two sides could clash.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Turkish foreign minister said plans for a roadmap in Manbij might be implemented before the end of the summer if Turkey and the United States reached an agreement.
He said US and Turkish forces would control the Manbij region until a new administration was formed under the understanding reached with Washington.
Cavusoglu said US and Turkish forces would control the Manbij region until a new administration was formed under a potential understanding with Washington.
Syria has denounced both the Turkish and American presence as “invasion,” calling on them to withdraw their forces from the Arab country.
A pro-Palestinian country, Turkey has also proven a strict opponent of the US's policy of unshakable support for Israel’s atrocities.
‘Turkey could eject US forces’
The Turkish top diplomat said the Incirlik Air Base in the country’s south, which is primarily used by American and Turkish forces, would be shut down if ties with the US reached a breaking point.
In 2015, the US withdrew its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkey’s border with Syria, creating a void in the bilateral military ties and leaving Ankara struggling to reinforce its air defenses.
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