In July, US lawmakers again threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara over its 2017 move to buy the S-400 air defence system from Russia. Turkey’s purchase has already led to Ankara’s expulsion from the F-35 programme.
The North Atlantic Alliance would like Turkey to find alternatives to its S-400s, with the systems said to carry with them risks to alliance aircraft and the danger of new sanctions from Washington, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has announced.
“We are concerned about the consequences of Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 system,” Stoltenberg said, speaking to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday in Ankara during a visit to the region.
“The system could pose a risk to allied aircraft and could lead to US sanctions,” the official said, adding that the S-400 cannot be integrated into NATO’s air defence standards.
“I urge Turkey to work with other allies to find alternative solutions. We discussed this during our meeting today,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Responding to Stoltenberg, Cavusoglu recalled that Washington effectively forced Ankara to buy the Russian air defence systems, since Turkey “could not acquire American Patriot air defence systems or other similar systems for its defence.”
Turkey and Russia signed a $2.5 billion loan agreement for the delivery of S-400s to Ankara in December 2017. Turkey received its first batch of the air defence systems in July 2019. By 2020, four battalions consisting of 36 launchers, the accompanying radar and 192+ missiles had been delivered. In August 2020, Russian officials confirmed that Moscow and Ankara were at an ‘advanced stage’ of talks for the delivery of another batch of S-400s to Turkey.
Praise From NATO
In a statement put out by the alliance following Stoltenberg’s meeting with Cavusoglu, they alliance reported that “the Secretary General praised Turkey’s contributions to NATO missions, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. Mr. Stoltenberg also highlighted NATO’s strong commitment to Turkey’s security by augmenting its air defence against missile attacks from Syria, and by increasing the Alliance’s air and naval presence.”
Stoltenberg also celebrated the deconfliction mechanism established last week to reduce tensions related to the Turkish-Greek dispute over gas exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Expressing “gratitude” for NATO’s “mediating role” in the conflict with Athens, Cavusoglu said that “even though Greece had a negative attitude in the beginning, it is now attending talks, and we appreciate this.”
Commenting on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Cavusoglu accused Armenia of carrying out a “war crime” by attacking Azerbaijani civilian settlements, blasted France for its ‘open support’ of Armenia, and called on NATO to express unequivocal support for Baku, just as Turkey has.
Stoltenberg said NATO was “watching the situation carefully” and called for an immediate ceasefire.