Turkey will not turn back from a major arms deal with Russia despite the US suspension of Ankara from the F-35 fighter-jet programme, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
"The S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this," he told a think-tank forum in Washington, where he is taking part in 70th anniversary celebrations of NATO.
The US said on Monday that it was halting shipment of F-35 parts to Turkey as well as joint manufacturing work due to Ankara's purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
Cavusoglu said Turkey turned to Russia as it could not buy US Patriot missiles and quoted President Donald Trump as saying in an unspecified phone call that his predecessor Barack Obama had made a "mistake" not to sell the system to Ankara.
The Turkish foreign minister said the S-400 deal did not signal a warming toward Russia.
"We are not choosing between Russia and any other allies," Cavusoglu said.
"We don't see our relations with Russia as an alternative to our relations with others and nobody, neither West nor Russia, should or can ask us to choose between," he added.
US policymakers worry that Russia will obtain data from the F-35s to hone the ability of the S-400 to shoot down Western planes.
Working group to ease US worries
Cavusoglu said the S-400 system would be separate from NATO infrastructure in Turkey with no linkages to the F-35s.
"It will not be integrated into the NATO system ... therefore we propose the United States to establish a technical working group to make sure that this system will not be a threat - neither to [US] F-35's nor the NATO systems," Cavusoglu told a panel in the US
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.
A Pentagon official told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that Turkish pilots will continue to train with F-35 fighter jets in Arizona.
Turkey must choose whether it wants to remain a critical partner of NATO, or continue its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday.
Pence said Turkey's purchase of the S-400 system could potentially pose a risk to NATO.
"Turkey must choose, does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in the history of the world, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership," Pence said at "NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70", an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay delivered a strong reaction to Pence's remark.
"The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey's ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally's defence against its enemies?" Oktay asked.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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