ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Washington and Ankara had done little to solve a row over Turkey’s purchase of Russian defenses and its procurement of U.S. fighter jets despite a November agreement, according to broadcaster NTV.
Ties between the NATO allies were badly strained last year when Turkey bought Russian S-400 defense systems, prompting Washington to threaten sanctions and to suspend Turkish involvement in its F-35 jet program, where Ankara was a buyer and manufacturer.
Washington says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO systems and threaten the stealth capabilities of its Lockheed Martin F-35 jets. Ankara rejects this and says S-400s will not be integrated into the alliance’s defenses.
Turkey has accused the United States of stalling and ignoring its proposal to form a joint working group on the issue involving NATO, even though Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in November to start work on it.
“We made the appointments there (in Washington), but there are no serious efforts on this yet,” Erdogan was quoted by NTV as saying. “The S-400 issue is over. It is out of the question for us to turn back from this deal,” he told reporters on a return flight from Senegal.
Days after Erdogan’s Washington visit in mid-November, his spokesman said Turkish and U.S. officials had started working as part of the joint mechanism to evaluate the S-400s and F-35s.
Erdogan also again warned that Ankara could look elsewhere for fighter jets. “Either the United States will give us the money for these or give us the jets,” Erdogan said. “If they won’t give us back the money… we can also find and buy them elsewhere or make them ourselves.”
Last month, a $738-billion defense spending bill passed by the U.S. Senate called on Trump to sanction Turkey and prohibit the delivery of F-35s to the NATO ally over the S-400s.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)