- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2019

Washington and Ankara are inching closer to holding senior-level, bilateral talks over Turkey’s plans to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile system — a deal that U.S. officials say would force the cancellation of planned sales of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the NATO ally.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan struck an optimistic tone on whether the U.S. and Turkey could reach common ground regarding the S-400 acquisition, telling reporters at the Pentagon he would personally travel to Turkey and accompany the first deliveries of the F-35 to Ankara’s forces.

“The fact that I would go [to Turkey] to deliver the F-35 represents that we [will] resolve the S-400. And that’s what I am expecting we’ll able to solve,” he said, ahead of a meeting with Albania’s Minister of Defense Olta Xhacka.

His comments come less than a week after meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, to discuss the S-400 deal and other issued concerning the U.S.-Turkish relationship.

“There will always be challenges to navigate and that’s why we took the time … to sit down together,” Mr. Shanahan said of his meeting with Mr. Akar on Tuesday. “It’s like ok where are we stuck, how do we get unstuck,” he added. When asked on Thursday how close both sides are to holding talks on the S-400, Mr. Shanahan replied: “We’re closer.”

U.S. and NATO officials fear the mixing of the Russian defense system and the American-made F-35 could give Moscow critical intelligence on the new jet’s capabilities and features. Yet Ankara’s insistence on moving ahead with the S-400 is further straining relations between Turkey and Washington, already frayed over Syria, Iran, Venezuela and the treatment of the region’s Kurds.

Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu earlier this month publicly quashed any near-term hopes for a deal between the Trump administration and Ankara.

“S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this,” Mr. Cavusoglu said during a April 3rd NATO event sponsored by the Washington-based Atlantic Council. But the top Turkish diplomat did say a continued impasse between the U.S. and Ankara over the Russian deal “will have a negative impact on bilateral relations, which we do not prefer.”

A day after Mr. Cavusoglu’s comments, acting Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers told reporters the Pentagon is ready to pull the plug on sales of nearly 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey. “If they get the S-400, the F-35 will not go forward,” Mr. Summers said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide