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Erdogan: Turkey Turns to Other Options If US Refuses to Sell F-35

TEHRAN Turkey will turn to other options if the United States refuses to sell F-35 fighter jets to Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on Friday.

"You don't sell F-35s [to Turkey]. Very well. But then we will take our own measures and look for other options," Erdogan told a meeting of provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital Ankara, Anadolu news agency reported.

He noted that Washington did not deliver to Turkey the jets pledged during the term of former US President Barrack Obama.

"They said: 'Our congress did not allow'," Erdogan stated, referring to the US Congressmen.

"You rejected when we wanted to buy Patriot [missiles] during the Obama era. You are trying to prevent it again during Mr. Trump's era. We would like to purchase it but you don't want to give it. Then what are we going to do? We will buy it from whoever sells it," he said.

US President Donald Trump reportedly told Republican senators during a closed-door White House meeting Tuesday that he does not want to penalize Turkey for buying the Russian S-400 air defense systems. He has repeatedly voiced reluctance to penalize Turkey over its purchase of the S-400s, including last week when announcing Ankara's removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.

The Trump administration has maintained that the S-400 could expose the advanced fighter to possible Russian subterfuge and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Trump blames the Obama administration for the current row over its refusal to sign a deal with Turkey to sell it the American Patriot missile system, causing Ankara to seek Russia's support in the purchase of S-400s.

The US has also advised Turkey not to deploy Russian S-400 systems under the threat of more sanctions, even though the White House has been cautious about punishing its NATO ally which could respond by closing its bases to US troops.

There could be more sanctions to follow but frankly what we'd really like is for the S-400 not to become operational, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Bloomberg.

The US has been pressuring Turkey to back out of the arms deal with Russia for months, threatening to punish its ally for disobedience under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act. In response to the first deliveries of Russian hardware, the US has formally expelled Turkey from the F-35 program, in which Ankara invested around $1.25 billion, and it remains an open question whether any of it will be reimbursed. At the same time, despite all talk of crippling sanctions, the White House has been reluctant to adopt a full-blown response.

Turkey is meanwhile drafting counter-sanctions plans, which in the worst case scenario could see US forces expelled from Turkish air force bases that Washington depends on to project its influence in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria.

We are currently running the process, whether it's Incirlik, Kurecik or other issues, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding, "If America has very negative steps toward us, if there are sanctions or further steps, we will have answers to America."

Source: Fars News Agency