Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will discuss buying US-made missiles with President Donald Trump this month despite ongoing tension with Washington sparked by Ankara’s purchase of Russia‘s S-400 missile defence system.
In an interview with Reuters news agency on Friday, Erdogan said he discussed buying the surface-to-air Patriot missiles in a phone call with Trump two weeks ago, and would follow up on those talks when the pair meet at the UN General Assembly, which opens next week.
“I said no matter what package of … S-400s we get, we can buy from you a certain amount of Patriots,” Erdogan said.
“But I said we have to see conditions that at least match up to the S-400s,” he said, adding that he was referring to the possibility of joint production and favourable lending terms.
The Turkish leader’s comments come after Ankara’s purchase of the Russian missile system in July irked Washington and raised the prospect of US sanctions being rolled out against its NATO ally.
The State Department has said an offer to sell Raytheon’s Patriot missile defence system to Ankara had expired.
However, the dispute over the Russian systems has brought the NATO allies to the brink of one of their biggest ruptures in ties.
Washington had tried for months to prevent Turkey‘s acquisition of the S-400 – which can hit targets 400km away – arguing they are incompatible with NATO systems.
In July, the US started removing Turkey from its F-35 programme – as it long threatened – after Ankara started receiving the missile defence system.
It said that if the S-400s were to be deployed near the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, which Turkey was helping to produce, and would undermine the stealth fighters’ defences.
Amid the standoff, Erdogan suggested last month that Turkey may buy Russia-made Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets instead of the F-35s.
Trump has repeatedly said Turkey was treated unfairly over its decision to buy the S-400s and blamed the “mess” on the administration of former President Barack Obama.
However, Trump has not ruled out imposing sanctions on Ankara over the issue.
Any sanctions could hamper Erdogan’s efforts to boost activity in Turkey’s faltering economy, which sank into recession last year.
In response to a question on whether Erdogan would ask Trump to prevent the US Treasury imposing a heavy fine on Turkey’s mainly state-owned Halkbank for violating US sanctions on Iran, the Turkish president said he was confident they could avoid such a “mistake”, citing what he said was “a different kind of trust” between the two men.
“In my opinion, a country like the USA will not want to hurt its ally Turkey anymore. This is not a rational behaviour,” he said.