President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will seek compensation for its removal from a US-led stealth fighter jet program, which took place over Ankara’s purchase of advanced S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.
Erdogan made the remarks on his way back from Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, where he held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier.
He expressed hope to meet US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in the Italian capital of Rome next month to discuss the cancelled F-35 project, including a $1.4 billion payment Turkey had made before its expulsion from the program.
“We made a $1.4 billion payment, what will become of that?” Erdogan said. “We did not - and do not - earn this money easily. Either they will give us our planes or they will give us the money.”
Biden refused to meet with Erdogan at the UN General Assembly last week.
Erdogan further stressed that Turkey would not step back from its deal to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia, adding that Ankara will proceed with acquiring the advanced air defense units despite US opposition.
“The S-400 process continues. There is no turning back.” he said.
Turkey and Russia finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 missile systems in late 2017.
The S-400 entered service with the Russian army in 2007 and is considered Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.
Capable of engaging targets at a distance of 400 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers, the missile system can destroy aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against land-based targets.
Turkey and the United States, both of them NATO members, have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian systems, which the US alleges are not compatible with the military hardware owned by the other countries of the Western military alliance.
Turkey maintains that the S-400's components could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.
Washington says the S-400 defense systems pose a threat to the American Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, which were being jointly produced in Turkey. That production was canceled by the White House over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made air defense system.
Ankara had formerly purchased America’s F-35 jets, but in retaliation for Turkey’s S-400 purchase, the administration of former US president Donald Trump halted its delivery.
The United States has also imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry over the missile purchase.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan said his talks with Putin focused on steps that would deepen defense cooperation between the two countries, including partnerships for aircraft engines, fighter jets and submarines.
He also said Russia could be involved in the construction of Turkey’s second and third nuclear power plants, and of a space launch platform.
On Wednesday, Erdogan held talks with Putin in Sochi aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and addressing regional security issues, including the situation in Syria.
The two leaders also agreed to continue to work together toward restoring calm in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey and Russia back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.