Turkey has rejected a demand by the United States to abandon the S-400 missile defense systems it has bought from Russia, calling such a request unacceptable and an infringement of sovereign rights.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was faced with the demand during a meeting with his American counterpart Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday. Trump told him that Ankara would be receiving US-made Patriot missile systems if it submitted to the request.
Erdogan addressed Turkish media afterwards, denouncing the US for its meddling in Ankara’s affairs.
“We said, ‘We see the proposal to remove the S-400s completely while buying the Patriots as an infringement of our sovereign right and certainly do not find it right,'” the media outlets cited him as saying. “This is the most binding element: We have some strategic efforts with Russia,” the Turkish head of state noted.
“I cannot abandon the S-400s because of Patriots now. If you are going to give us Patriots, give them,” he was quoted as saying.
Turkey began taking delivery of the Russian equipment in July, despite prolonged bickering with the US, which had alleged that it does not match the military hardware owned by the other countries of the Western military alliance of NATO, of which Ankara is a member. Washington also claimed that the system could be used to target its F-35 warplanes.
In reaction, Washington banned the sales of the F-35s to Ankara and removed it from a multinational program producing the aircraft.
The meeting was also overshadowed by the US’s recent abandoning of its support for Syria-based Kurdish militants right at the time, when Turkey was about to wage a repeated invasion against their positions in the Arab country.
Pro-Kurdish protesters gathered outside the White House during the meeting to censure Erdogan’s visit and slam Trump’s administration for its policy vis-à-vis the militants.
Trump, nevertheless, lauded his relationship with Erdogan during the meeting. “We’ve been friends for a long time, almost from Day 1. We understand each others’ country. We understand where we are coming from.”