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No step back on Russian S-400 deal, Turkish foreign minister says

  • 14 Jun 2019

On violations of the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria, Mevlut Cavusoglu said any excuse from Russia is "unacceptable," as it is supposed to be one of the guarantor states.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at Anadolu Agency on June 14, 2019. ( AA )

Turkey will never retreat on its deal to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday. 

"We will never take a step back [on the S-400s]," Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency’s segment Editor’s Desk in the capital Ankara.

"We will continue our dedication in order to be an independent and free nation," Cavusoglu said.

His remarks came after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey has already bought the Russian S-400 system and is set to receive delivery next month. 

Cavusoglu stressed that if the US takes negative steps towards Turkey, Ankara would have countermeasures.

Tensions between the US and Turkey have risen in recent months over Ankara purchasing the system, which Washington said will jeopardise Turkey's role in the US F-35 fighter jet program and could trigger congressional sanctions.

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defence system from the US with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.

US officials advised Turkey to buy the US Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge. 

Turkey, however, emphasised the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Idlib violations

On violations of the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria, Cavusoglu said any excuse from Russia is "unacceptable," as it is supposed to be a guarantor of the peace. 

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the demilitarised zone.

The Russian-backed Syrian regime killed at least 28 people in shelling in Idlib and Hama countrysides on Thursday. War monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, the dead included seven civilians, despite a ceasefire announced by Moscow. 

Russian and regime air strikes also killed 21 militants in the same region the same day, the Britain-based monitor added.

A Syrian regime attack on one of Turkey's observation posts in Idlib left three Turkish soldiers slightly injured on Thursday, Turkey's defence ministry said.

The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by the buffer zone deal between Russia and Turkey.

But it was never fully implemented, as militants refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone.

Eastern Mediterranean

Turning to Greek-administered Cyprus' unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cavusoglu said any agreement excluding Turkey is "invalid."

Turkey has consistently contested unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and Ankara has a right to hydrocarbon drilling activities as well.

In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus' annexation by Greece, Ankara intervened as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.

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