In case Turkey doesn’t get F-35 jets as a result of sanctions imposed for the country’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 anti-missile defense systems, Ankara would seek fighter jets from other sources, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on July 22.
“Turkey will meet its needs from other sources until it produces on its own as we had sought for other options in the case of S-400s,” the minister said in an interview with the TGRT broadcaster.
“Let’s say we’re talking worst-case scenario, an administration that says ‘Turkey buys S-400 because we do not sell Patriots’ will have nothing to say if Turkey turns to other alternatives,” he said, adding that Turkey needs new generation fighter jets.
Turkey, of course, wants to meet its needs from its partner project, but if it cannot, Ankara has the right to examine other options, the minister noted.
“First and foremost, Turkey will take steps which an independent and free country should take.”
Turkey would retaliate against what it called an unacceptable threat of U.S. government-imposed sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of S-400 missile defenses, the foreign minister also said, adding he thinks President Donald Trump wants to avoid such measures.
“If the U.S. portrays an adversarial attitude towards us, we will take retaliatory measures, as we’ve told them. This is not a threat or a bluff,” he stated.
“We are not a country that will bow down to those who show animosity towards Turkey,” he said, reiterating a threat of retaliation that Turkey made last month. The minister added that he did not expect the U.S. administration to take such a step.
“Trump does not want to impose sanctions on Turkey, and he frequently says that his administration and the previous U.S. administration is also responsible for Turkey not being able to buy Patriot systems. This is true,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey began receiving deliveries of the surface-to-air S-400 systems earlier this month, prompting the United States to begin the process of suspending the NATO ally from its F-35 stealth fighter program over security concerns. Turkey, like other partners in the F-35 program, was part of the manufacturing supply chain for the high-tech jet aircraft, producing some 900 parts.
The minister said the U.S. decision for the F-35 program is not Turkey’s removal but its suspension. There has been no development toward U.S. sanctions yet, he added.