Turkey expects the delivery of the F35 fighter jets from the U.S. in November, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
“Despite some statements, F-35 process goes smoothly; our pilots, maintenance team continue training in the U.S.,” Akar told a luncheon with top Turkish generals in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.
“We expect delivery of F-35s in November to the [eastern] Malatya province, relevant preparations for infrastructure were completed,” Akar added.
He was accompanied with the Chief of Staff Yasar Guler, Land Forces Commander Umit Dundar, Naval Forces Commander Adnan Ozbal and Air Forces Commander Hasan Kucukakyuz at the luncheon.
“In our visit to the U.S., they told us that Turkey is one of the countries that has fully fulfilled its responsibilities, both financial and other pledges,” Akar said.
The defense chief added that Turkey continues to do its part in designing and manufacturing some parts of the F-35s.
S-400 Russian missile defense system
Akar said Turkey has a clear stance over the procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
As an issue for Turkey since the end of the 1990’s, Turkey’s search for an air and missile defense system accelerated in 2011 due to threats around, Akar said.
After NATO stationed patriots from the U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands each at Turkey’s request, they left Turkey after one-and-a-half year period on duty, he stated.
“So, everybody saw that we cannot keep our survival relying on temporary measures, and we should acquire it [air defense system], Akar said.
Upon this, Turkey systematized its current search, criteria were determined and negotiations began, he added.
Akar said Turkey’s main criteria was to acquire the technology, production, modernization and export rights of the systems that it purchases.
Russia responded positively to these demands and the agreement was signed for the purchase of the S-400 missile defense system after negotiations, he said.
On the letters sent to NATO and the U.S. for the supply of air defense systems, Akar said that the U.S. got back to Turkey 17 months later.
“We haven’t parted ways with NATO. We fully fulfill our commitments to NATO. However, our national security concerns cannot be ignored,” said Akar.
Reiterating Turkey’s commitment to targeting terrorists only, Akar said that Turkey’s operations in Syria contributed to peace and allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians to return to their homelands.
Akar said that the efforts by Turkey and Russia have prevented a big tragedy in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a demilitarized zone after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia’s coastal city of Sochi.
Ankara and Moscow signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the stabilization of the situation in Idlib’s de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are prohibited.
Akar added that the two sides are determined to expand cooperation in the area, especially after a new agreement was signed with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu early March.
“This agreement made things more clear and made it easy to patrol the areas. Now, we are working on a joint coordination center with Russia,” Akar said.
* Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur, Vakkas Dogantekin