Turkey Nears Russia Missile-Production Deal After NATO Warnings

“The signing of a deal is just around the corner", Ismail Demir said

(Bloomberg) --Turkey’s set to sign an agreement with Russia to jointly produce missiles and receive know-how to develop its own defense systems, a step that could boost criticism from its NATO partners that Ankara is moving away from the bloc.

“We will sign a deal after agreeing over final details regarding joint production or production of some parts in Turkey, and technology sharing,” said Ismail Demir, head of Turkey’s top defense procurement body, known as SSB.

The talks are part of Turkey’s deal to purchase a second S-400 missile-defense system from Russia and have reached a “quite ripe” stage, Demir said on Friday in Ankara. “The signing of a deal is just around the corner,” he said.

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The comments show Turkey remains undeterred by the prospect of American sanctions over its push for the S-400 missiles. The two NATO allies have been sparring over the potential risks posed by the purchase to the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program, the F-35 fighter jet built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Turkey insists it can buy from Russia while meeting its NATO obligations.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week voted to advance sanctions against Turkey, including a provision to enforce the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The legislation is designed to punish countries making significant arms purchases from Russia.

Turkey would have to shed the S-400 batteries in order to receive the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, according to Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. “If Turkey wants to come back into the fold, the path forward is to get rid of the S-400. So it’s not a keep it in a warehouse and lock it up. It is they need to divest themselves of that weapons system,” Hoffman said Thursday.

That’s something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to do.

Below are highlights of Demir’s remarks:

  • Turkey’s open to discussions on purchasing American-made Patriot missiles if the U.S. drops its pre-condition that Ankara should abandon the S-400s.
  • Demir dismissed concerns U.S. sanctions could block the supply of spare parts for its American weapons systems, including an aging F-16 fleet as well as CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter and the UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter.
  • “There is a game played here according to rules and agreements. If one side violates the rules, then the other side does not have to play either.”
  • “The work to make the first [S-400] system ready for activation by April is under way.
  • “Russia has made a proposal to sell a certain number of its Su-35 warplanes at a certain price.”
  • “We may find a middle way with Rolls Royce for an engine” for Turkey’s TF-X fighter jet project. “We shall solve the issue if we sit down at the table”
  • “Turkey plans to finish its landing helicopter dock before the end of next year,” and that will enable use of Turkish-made drones at sea with the help of an arresting-hook system
  • “Turkey is awaiting to hear from Germany for the supply of an engine for its Altay tank” project while it “looks for alternatives from some other countries.”
Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok