“Turkey does what is necessary for its own interests regarding the S-400 missile defense system, it takes own decision and choice,” Oktay told Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency on Thursday. adding that Ankara will not renege on its agreement with Russia.
“In any case [about purchasing of S-400 defense system from Russia], we would do what it requires, especially if we signed a deal,” the Turkish official emphasized.
The remarks came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would never go back from a deal to buy the S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, adding that Ankara may subsequently look into buying S-500 systems, Presstv Reported.
In an interview with Turkish-language 24 television news network on Wednesday, Erdogan also said the United States should not try to discipline Turkey through trade measures, adding that Ankara had its own penalties prepared.
“We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians and will start co-production,” said Erdogan, who added, “Later, we may work with S-500s.”
US State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino warned on Tuesday that “acquisition of the S-400 will result in a reassessment of Turkey's participation in the F-35 (fighter jet) program, and risk other potential future arms transfers to Turkey.”
The comments came on the same day that the head of the US European Command, General Curtis Scaparrotti, told members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services that the United States should not follow through with a multi-billion dollar weapons sale of F-35 jets to Turkey, if Ankara takes delivery of Russian S-400 missile systems.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with allies that are working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems,” he said.
“I would hope that they [Turkey] would reconsider this one decision on the S-400,” Scaparrotti added, noting that there could be potential consequences, namely no future military sales between Washington and Ankara.
Washington has reportedly proposed to deliver one US-made Patriot missile system to Ankara by the end of 2019, on the condition that Turkey abandons the deal with Russia.
Two senior Turkish officials familiar with the talks, requesting anonymity, said on March 1 that Turkey had rejected the offer as it didn't include a loan agreement or a technology sharing pact.
Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 missile systems in December 2017.
Back in April last year, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400 missile systems. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.
A number of NATO member states have criticized Turkey for its planned purchase of the S-400 from Russia, stating that the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.
They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara's acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4 billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
Ankara’s ties with its Western allies in NATO have been strained over a range of issues.
Erdogan has been critical of Washington for supporting Kurdish groups in Syria that he says are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey.
The Turkish leader has also slammed American officials for rejecting his requests to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a powerful opposition figure living in the US, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt, among other issues.