US: If Turkey abandons S-400, we’ll accept it to F-35 program
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper voiced hope Wednesday that Turkey would abandon the S-400 anti-air system, saying Turkey could return to the F-35 program if it does so.
Esper told reporters at the Pentagon during an exceedingly rare news briefing that short of completely doing away with the Russian S-400 system, Ankara would not be allowed to return to the F-35.
"IT'S ONE OR ANOTHER"
"I’ve been very clear in both my public comments and privately with my Turkish counterpart: it’s either the F-35 or the S-400. It’s not both. It’s not park one in the garage, and roll the other one out. It’s one or the other," Esper said.
"So we are where we are and it’s regrettable. As I’ve said, Turkey’s been a long-standing, a great partner and ally, and I would hope that they would move back in our direction and really live up to what NATO agreed to many years ago, and that was to begin divesting of Soviet-era Russian equipment," he added. "They seem to be moving in a different direction."
TURKEY HAS ALREADY DELIVERED THE SECOND BATCH OF S-400
The Trump administration has maintained that the S-400 system could expose the advanced fighter to possible Russian subterfuge and is incompatible with NATO systems.
Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Trump blames the Obama administration for the current row over its refusal to sign a deal with Turkey to sell it American defense firm Raytheon's Patriot missile system.