US President Donald Trump's comments came a day after the White House said the Turkey's purchase of Russian air defence system made Ankara's presence in the F-35 programme impossible.

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, July 18, 2019.
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, July 18, 2019. (Reuters)

The United States is not currently looking at sanctioning Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defence systems, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

His comments came a day after the White House said that the Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missiles make Ankara’s presence in the F-35 programme impossible.

Earlier, Turkey  slammed Washington's decision to exclude it from the F-35 stealth fighter programme in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Turkey's removal from the F-35 fighter jet programme over its purchase of Russia's S-400 defence system is not based on a legitimate reason and does not suit ally spirit, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

In a statement, the foreign ministry called on the United States to return from what it characterised as a mistake, saying it would harm strategic ties between two NATO allies.

"This unilateral step is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and does not rely on any legitimate justification."

"Excluding Turkey, one of the main partners from the F35 program is unfair, and the claim that S-400 system will weaken the F-35s is invalid."

F-35s and S-400s "cannot coexist"

The US on Wednesday said Turkey's further participation in the F-35 program is "impossible" due to its procurement of the Russian S-400 air defence system.

"Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible," White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement

"The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities." the statement said. 

The Trump administration had threatened to expel Turkey from the F-35 fighter program if it acquired the S-400 from Russia, claiming that the anti-air system could be used by Moscow to covertly attain secret information on the stealth fighter.

The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing with 14 shipments of related equipment so far having landed in Turkey over the last six days.

TRT World 's Jon Brain has more.

'Multi-layered' relationship

Grisham stressed that as NATO allies, the US and Turkey share a relationship that is "multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35."

"Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey," she said.

Later, addressing a briefing, Pentagon official Ellen Lord said that the US and other F -35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the programme.

"The United States is spending between $500 and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain," she further said.

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defence system from the US with no success, Ankara signed a contract in 2017 to purchase the S-400s from Russia.

US President Donald Trump blamed the ongoing row over the F-35 on the Obama administration, who he said created the problem by not allowing the Turkish government to purchase Patriot missile systems. 

"As soon as they found out that they were going to have to buy the missiles, comparable missiles, not as good a missile, but a comparable almost missile from Russia ⁠— all of a sudden everybody started rushing and saying to Turkey, 'Okay, we'll sell you the Patriot missile,'" Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies