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Turkey firmly rejects US threat of sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense system

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General in Ankara, on April 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey has dismissed Washington’s threats of imposing sanction on Ankara over its planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense system, insisting that it will not be deterred by such threats.

“The ‘I will impose sanctions if you buy’ approach will not affect Turkey. Turkey will not accept this. If we are going to discuss what we can do together in the future, we are in,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a Friday presser following his Brussels meeting with his newly confirmed US counterpart Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.

Cavusoglu’s remarks came after Pompeo raised serious concerns about Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 batteries, and after Washington’s envoy to the NATO military alliance, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, threatened Turkey with “serious consequences” earlier in the week for the Russian deal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives with US Ambassador of NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison (L) for a foreign ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

“The secretary underscored the seriousness of US concerns ... if they (Turkey) go ahead,” said a senior US official following Pompeo’s meeting with Cavusoglu as quoted in a Reuter’s report, adding: “He asked Cavusoglu to closely consider NATO interoperable systems.”

According to the report, officials of the US-led military alliance have also warned Ankara about unspecified consequences of purchasing the S-400, insisting that the system is incompatible with the NATO’s systems.

Turkey signed the S-400 purchase agreement with Russia – worth about $2.5 billion – last December as part of its efforts to boost the nation’s defense capabilities amid threats from Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists as well as the foreign-backed terror campaigns across its borders in Syria and Iraq.

Cavusoglu has told Turkish broadcasters after his meeting Pompeo that the S-400 deal has concluded and that Ankara would be open to purchasing other defense systems from its allies.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo gives a press conference during a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on April 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

“We have completed the S-400 process. That is a done deal,” he emphasized. “But we need more air defense. We can discuss what we can do for further purchases.”

Meanwhile, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated on Friday that purchasing the Russian air defense system “is Turkey's national decision,” urging Washington to hold a dialogue with Ankara, Turkey-based Daily Sabah reported.

Speaking after NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Stoltenberg was also cited as saying that he was aware of American threats to impose sanctions on Turkey for purchasing the S-400.

The daily also quoted the US NATO envoy as saying, "Turkey has been a strong ally for us in NATO, but we are very worried at the point that we have come to. The Russian missile system represents an obstacle to our ability to work together comprehensively as a whole."

She further added that Washington hopes to see Turkey reevaluating its decision.

The development comes after three US senators introduced a measure in Congress on Thursday to block the transfer of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Turkey, over what they described as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law.”

Turkey plans to purchase more than 100 of the F-35 aircraft. The legislation would restrict the transfer of F-35s to Turkey and limit Ankara from receiving intellectual property or technical data required to maintain and support the war planes.

Pompeo headed to Brussels to take part in the NATO meetings – reportedly focusing on anti-Russia measures -- hours after being confirmed as US President Donald Trump’s new secretary of state.

During his meeting with his Turkish counterpart Pompeo also raised concerns about the detention of American Christian preacher Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed in the country since December 2016, and other Americans detained by Turkey. Brunson operated a church in the nation’s eastern city of Izmir and had been accused by Ankara of collaborating with forces waging a military coup against the country in that year.

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