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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Russia's arms producer says Turkey will receive S-400 missile system in 2019

Iran Press TV

Tue Aug 21, 2018 03:40PM

Russia will commence delivering its advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense system to Turkey next year, a report says, much to the ire of Ankara's NATO allies, particularly the United States.

On Tuesday, the Interfax news agency cited Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport as announcing the news, adding that the state intermediary agency would also switch to using local currencies instead of the US dollar in deals with foreign trade partners.

Back on April 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of S-400 missile systems. At the time it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.

The S-400 system, whose full name is the Triumph Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS), is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.

Washington has time and again warned Turkey against the consequences of its decision to buy the S-400 missile batteries from Russia, saying the White House could slap Ankara with sanctions over such a purchase.

Turkey is striving to strengthen its air defense capabilities, particularly after the US decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from the Anatolian country's border with Syria, a move that notably weakened Turkey's air defense.

Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly withdrew from a $3.4 billion contract for a similar Chinese system after purported pressure from Washington.

Turkey's relations with its Western allies in NATO have been strained over a range of issues. Erdogan has been critical of the US for supporting Kurdish groups in Syria that he says are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey. Ankara has also condemned Washington's refusal to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a powerful US-based Turkish opposition figure, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish government.

But the detention of an American pastor named Andrew Brunson in Turkey over terror-related charges has caused the biggest rift between the two countries in recent weeks.

Brunson, 50, was indicted by a Turkish court on charges of having links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group and the Gulen's movement. The pastor, who has already spent nearly two years behind bars in Turkey, has denied the charges, calling them "shameful and disgusting."

If he is found guilty, he will face up to 35 years in jail. His imprisonment and then house arrest have caused one of the deepest rows between Turkey and the US.

The Turkish lira has already lost about 30 percent of its value against the US dollar since the beginning of August, when tensions between the two NATO allies soared unprecedentedly over the detained pastor.

Back on August 21, Rosoboronexport said that it would no longer conduct its sales to foreign customers in US dollars, allowing purchases in local currencies, including Turkish lira.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump said that Washington said that he had ordered to double US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

The US is the world's biggest steel importer, and Turkey is the sixth-largest steel exporter to the US.

On Wednesday, a Turkish court rejected Washington's latest appeal for Brunson's release. Later the same day, Ankara increased duties on imports of some key US products such as rice, hard alcohol, leaf tobacco, cosmetics and cars in a tit-for-tat move.

Erdogan on Saturday said his country will not "surrender" to the US under sanctions imposed over the detention of Brunson.

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