S-400s purchased for use, not to keep aside, says Turkish defence official

Turkey purchased the Russian S-400 missile defence systems to use them, not place them aside, the head of the Turkish Defence Industry Directorate said on Saturday.

The statement from İsmail Demir arrives days after talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington where the pair discussed an array of issues affecting the relations of the NATO allies, including sanctions threats over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian systems.

Demir said it was not logical for any country to purchase such a system and then cast it aside, adding that Ankara and Washington aimed to tackle the issue.

"It is not a correct approach to say 'we won't use them for their sake' about a system that we bought out of necessity and paid so much money for," Demir told CNN Türk. "We have allied relations with Russia and the United States. We have to go on and respect the agreements we signed," he said. 

The United States has warned Turkey with sanctions over its purchase of the S-400s, suspending Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme, in which it was a customer and a manufacturing partner.

Washington maintains the Russian system is not compatible with Western-made NATO systems. The United States also fears that if the Turkish military operated both the F-35s and S-400s, it would allow Russia to glean sensitive information about the advanced fighter jets.

Trump on Wednesday urged his counterpart Erdoğan at the White House to drop the S-400 systems. Erdoğan said Ankara could not harm its relations with Russia and expressed once again Turkey's desire to buy U.S. Patriot defences in addition to the S-400s.

Turkish and U.S. officials had begun working as part of a joint mechanism aiming to evaluate the impact of the S-400s on the F-35s, a top aide to Erdoğan said on Friday.

Demir said the move showed an easing in the position of the Washington, and added that Turkey was ready to take measures that will address U.S. concerns over the S-400s after the talks.

"As a loyal friend and ally, we have said we were ready to take measures if there are any risks that we have overlooked on this issue," Demir said. "We still believe we can find a middle ground on the S-400 issue, so long as both sides are open."

The Turkish defence official also said Turkish personnel were continuing their training on the S-400s in Russia, however, added there would be no Russian personnel coming to Turkey to operate the systems.