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Iran Press TV

US sanctions Turkey over purchase of Russian S-400 systems; Ankara vows retaliation

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 15 December 2020 6:46 AM

The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of advanced Russian S-400 missile defense systems, in a move condemned by Ankara as a "grave mistake" that would "inevitably" harm mutual relations.

The sanctions were announced late on Monday on Turkey's top defense procurement and development body Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), its chairman Ismail Demir and three other Turkish defense officials, namely Mustafa Alper Deniz, Serhat Gencoglu and Faruk Yigit.

"The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of US military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia's defense sector," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Briefing reporters, Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said Washington had sought a solution but Ankara rejected all offers.

"This is not a step we've taken lightly or certainly quickly," he asserted.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in return, called the decision "inexplicable" given that Ankara has repeatedly proposed forming a joint working group with Washington to allay the latter's concerns that S-400 missile systems threatened NATO defenses, but its offers have not been fully utilized.

"We call on the United States to revise the unjust sanctions (and) to turn back from this grave mistake as soon as possible," it said in a statement.

"Turkey is ready to tackle the issue through dialog and diplomacy in a manner worthy of the spirit of alliance," the statement added.

The sanctions "will inevitably negatively impact our relations, and (Turkey) will retaliate in a manner and time it sees appropriate," the ministry said.

In turn, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said the sanctions ill fit the spirit of alliance.

"We will continue to take every step with determination necessary for the defense of our country," he wrote in a post published on his Twitter page.

SSB Chairman Ismail Demir, one of the four sanctioned individuals, also told state-run TRT television network that the "threatening language" will only redouble Turkey's determination to have a fully independent defense industry.

Just ahead of the US announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said the sanctions rhetoric was upsetting.

"From our NATO ally the United States, we expect support in our battle against terrorist organizations ... not sanctions," he said after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.

Russia, Iran slam US disregard for international law

Moreover, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US sanctions on Turkey over its procurement of S-400 missile systems were illegitimate and showed Washington's arrogance toward international law.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also denounced the US for imposing sanctions on its own ally.

"US addiction to sanctions and contempt for international law at full display again. We strongly condemn recent US sanctions against Turkey and stand with its people and government," he wrote on Twitter.

Former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen, who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank, said the sanctions will block joint projects or technology transfers between US companies and Turkish firms linked to SSB.

They also impose restrictions on loans and credits by US financial institutions to SSB, totaling more than $10 million, and place asset freezes and visa restrictions on those the sanctions list.

The US and Turkey have long been at loggerheads over Ankara's purchase of the S-400 from Moscow under an agreement inked in 2017. Deliveries of the first batch of the missile batteries, worth $2.5 billion, began around two years.

Washington first tried to kill the agreement by suspending Turkey from its advanced F-35 jet program, but to no avail.

Washington claims the activation of the S-400s would compromise NATO's defenses and could give Russia access to intelligence about the American F-35 fighter jets and other military equipment.

Ankara, however, rejects the argument, saying the Russian-made systems will not be integrated into NATO's command-and-control infrastructure, but rather "used as a standalone system."

Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military had reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system under pressure from Washington.

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