President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has hailed the controversial delivery of a Russian missile defence system despite the threat of US sanctions, saying the next step would be to jointly produce S-400s with Moscow.
The first batch of the Russian S-400 equipment was delivered to Turkey in recent days even after repeated US calls to cancel the deal or face punishment.
“We have begun to receive our S-400s. Some said ‘they cannot buy them’… God willing the final part of this [delivery] will be in April 2020,” Erdogan told a crowd of thousands on Monday in Ankara as Turkey marked the third anniversary of a bloody coup attempt.
“Now the aim is joint production with Russia. We will do that,” he said.
The US threatened Turkey with sanctions and has already started removing it from the F-35 fighter jet programme. Washington says the Russian missile system is a threat to the F-35s and that Turkey can’t have both.
The Turkish leader has previously said he does not believe Washington will impose sanctions since the two countries are “strategic allies”.
It’s unclear when and where the S-400s will be fully installed, but Turkey will be the first NATO member to operate the Russian surface-to-air defence system, which can hit targets as far as 400km away.
The ninth Russian plane carrying S-400 parts landed at the Murted military base in Ankara on Monday, the defence ministry said.
Formerly known as the Akinci base, it was renamed after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt by a faction of the military. Akinci was reportedly where many soldiers who backed the putsch were based.