ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he did not expect the United States to impose sanctions on Turkey over its planned purchase of a Russian missile defense system, but would retaliate if it did.
FILE PHOTO – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during their meeting in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 14 February 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS
Speaking at a rare news conference for foreign media in Istanbul, Erdogan repeated that the purchase of Russian S-400 systems was a ‘done deal’ and said the United States should think carefully before imposing sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member.
“I say this very openly and sincerely, our relations with (President Donald) Trump are at a place that I can call really good … In the event of any issues, we immediately work the phones,” Erdogan said.
“I do not see any possibility of these sanctions happening,” Erdogan said. But he said Turkey would not remain silent if they were imposed. “The U.S. has to think about this very carefully. We will have sanctions of our own.”
He said he would discuss the issue with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month.
Turkey has been at loggerheads with the United States for months over Ankara’s planned purchase of the Russian missile defense system, which Washington says is incompatible with NATO’s defense network and could compromise its F-35 fighter jets – an aircraft Turkey is helping build and planning to buy.
The United States is threatening to impose sanctions on Turkey unless it scraps the plan to buy the Russian S-400s. Erdogan has refused to back down. On Thursday he said deliveries are likely to start within the first half of July.
Ankara has been pinning hopes on Trump to waive sanctions.
Erdogan said while he enjoyed good ties with Trump, he could not say the same about relations between Ankara and other U.S. officials.
“When we have talks with those below Trump, we see that many cannot agree with our officials, and one example is the S-400 issue,” he said.
Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler and Janet Lawrence