Turkey will not give up on Russian S-400 air-defense system to acquire U.S. Patriots, the Turkish president said on Wednesday, stressing his country “can buy Patriots too”.
“It is out of question to completely leave Russian S-400 to buy U.S. Patriots. We can buy Patriots too. However, we will buy S-400 as well,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters in his flight en route to Ankara from Washington.
“Turkey can buy U.S. Patriots, but we consider offers to buy just Patriots and completely put Russian S-400s aside as an interference in our sovereignty rights,” Erdoğan added.
Turkey's acquisition of the advanced Russian air-defense system prompted the Trump administration to remove Turkey from the F-35 fifth-generation joint strike fighter program in July.
The U.S. maintains that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the jet 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.
Erdoğan said the U.S. President Donald Trump makes sincere efforts to find solutions for issues based on mutual respect and national interests in bilateral relations.
“[However], anti-Trump circles are working hard to break our relations,” he said, adding Trump was “positive and constructive”.
Erdoğan said building dialogue on facts would help overcome disagreements between Turkey and the U.S.
He said Turkey sought to have "friendly" relations with both Russia and the U.S.
Extradition of FETO ringleader
Erdoğan said talks on extradition of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) ringleader Fetullah Gulen were ongoing between the Turkish and the U.S. Justice Ministries.
He said that the Turkish side presented booklets to the U.S. senators on crimes committed by the FETO terror group.
Referring to a resolution passed in the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing the so-called "Armenian genocide", Erdoğan said he briefed U.S. President Donald Trump and senators on events of 1915 and told them it was a "great mistake to politicize historical incidents."
Turkey's position is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Ankara does not accept the alleged genocide, but acknowledges that there were casualties on both sides during the events of World War I.
Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.