ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he hoped positive steps will be taken on Turkey’s role in the F-35 jet programme once U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, describing Ankara’s exclusion for purchasing Russian defences as a “serious wrong”.
Last month, Washington imposed long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry over its acquisition of S-400 missile defence systems from Moscow, in a move Turkey called a “grave mistake”.
The United States has also removed fellow NATO member Turkey from the F-35 programme over the move.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defence systems. Turkey rejects this, saying S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and purchasing them was a necessity as it was unable to procure air defence systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
“No country can determine the steps we will take toward the defence industry, that fully depends on the decisions we make,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding Ankara was in talks to procure a second shipment of S-400s from Russia and would hold talks on the issue later this month.
“We don’t know what the Biden administration will say at this stage (on the S-400s),” he added. “Despite having paid a serious fee on the F-35s, the F-35s still have not been given to us. This is a serious wrong the United States did against us as a NATO ally,” he said.
“My hope is that, after we hold talks with Biden as he takes office, we will take much more positive steps and put these back on track.”
Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, replacing incumbent Donald Trump, with whom Erdogan had a close relationship. Ankara has said it hopes for better with Washington then.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Chizu Nomiyama)