Talks on Patriot missiles get rocky, no step back from deal with Russia – Erdogan
Talks on buying US-made Patriot missile systems aren't going smoothly, as Americans are giving the cold shoulder to Turkish requests, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after his trip to Russia.
US officials "can't say anything [concrete] about the issues of joint production and loans" which, along with early delivery, Turkey considers "important" conditions for the deal to be made, Erdogan told reporters on Saturday.
"Under such circumstances, we can't take a step" to buy the US-made MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, he explained.
Talks of acquiring Patriot systems from the US have been in the works for years, but the negotiations have stalled several times. They were reignited last fall after Turkish officials indicated that they were once again open to that option.
It would be extremely difficult for Washington to agree to share the Patriot technology with Turkey, because the system itself "is closely tied to US satellites and command centers," military expert Yuri Knutov told RT.
It will be a complete loss of sovereignty over the weapon. In practice, it will be operated by Turkish officers, but controlled by the Americans. It's the specifics of the Patriot system.
Erdogan signaled that negotiations had hit rocky ground as he was returning from Sochi, Russia, where he met with President Vladimir Putin. Among others things, the leaders discussed Syria and the recent deal for Ankara to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems.
Turkey signed a purchase agreement despite immense pressure from its ally Washington, whose politicians had suggested that the purchase of Russian-made arms would undermine security and interoperability within NATO. The conflict over the issue led US lawmakers to pass a bill effectively blocking the delivery of 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.
US officials later reportedly attempted to tie the Patriot deal to scrapping the S-400 agreement – another condition that Turkey strongly rebuffed.
The most recent push to dissuade allies from dealing with Moscow came from US Vice President Mike Pence. "We have also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries," he told the audience at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. "We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East."
Speaking to reporters the on same day, Erdogan reiterated that there is "no walking back" from the contract with Russia, and that the two sides are working to start the deployment of the S-400s to Turkey in July. Some 55 percent of their cost is set to be covered by a loan that Moscow is providing to Ankara. The offer was made "on very reasonable terms," the Turkish leader said back in June.
Turkey is also still interested in getting S-500s – the more advanced iteration of the S-400s – sometime in the future, Erdogan stated. He earlier suggested that if such a deal were to be struck, it should be a joint production.
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