The UK expects Turkey, as a NATO ally, to refrain from buying or operating Russian military equipment, such as the S-400 air defence system, a British Defence Minister has reiterated.
The comments were made in a letter to the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cyprus.
The letter to Sir Roger Gale by Minister Jeremy Quin was a response to questions by both the veteran Conservative MP and the leaders of the organised Greek Cypriot, Armenian, Kurdish and Egyptian diasporas in the UK.
Quin noted the longstanding bilateral defence relationship between the UK and Turkey, but said the British government has told Turkey “many times” that their procurement of Russian S400 systems “is a threat to NATO interoperability” as well as “incompatible with Allied systems”.
The Minister for Defence Procurement added that the UK will continue to urge Turkey to meet NATO commitments.
On halted export licences for British arms to Turkey, due to fears they might be used in Syria, the letter made clear that every application is examined on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated Criteria, which prohibit the sale of arms if there is concern they could be used in violation of human rights.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has said it would be “very problematic” for Ankara to turn back on its purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems.
Akar also confirmed that Turkey was in talks with Russia on obtaining a second consignment of the S-400 defence systems.
Washington slapped sanctions on NATO ally Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate (SSB), its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees last month following its acquisition of the S-400s.
“It is a very problematic situation to turn back from the point we have come to. We invite (the United States) to distance themselves from threatening language such as sanctions,” Akar told journalists in Ankara.
“We want the solution of problems through dialogue. If the U.S. side wants a solution, a solution could be found with work on the technical level,” he said.
Turkey has defended its acquisition of the S-400s as a necessity because it was unable to procure air defence systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and NATO’s broader defence systems. Turkey rejects this and says S-400s will not be integrated into NATO.
Recently imposed US sanctions against Turkey came up at the US Secretary of State’s nominee Anthony Blinken’s Senate confirmation hearing, with him pointing out that the impact they have had should be looked into.
Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez referred to Turkey’s aggressive behaviour in the Eastern Mediterranean against US allies Greece and Cyprus, arguing that Turkey continues to destabilise the region.
Menendez said the purchase of S-400 is a clear violation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
He also referred to Turkey’s engagement in destabilising actions in Syria, its invasion of Cyprus territorial waters to drill, claiming an entire part of Greece’s EEZ until Libya, the support Erdogan provides to Azerbaijan and his aggressive action in Nagorno-Karabakh which has cost many lives.
“Turkey is an ally, that in many ways… is not acting as an ally should and this is a very, very significant challenge for us and we’re very clear-eyed about it,” Blinken said.
He added, “the idea that a strategic – so-called strategic – partner of ours would actually be in line with one of our biggest strategic competitors in Russia is not acceptable.
“I think we need to take a look to see the impact that the existing sanctions have had and then determine whether more needs to be done,” Blinken said. (source Agencies)