In a letter, the Turkish defence minister called for mutual respect and friendship after the US backtracked on offering F-35 training to pilots in response to Turkey purchasing Russian-made S-400 defence systems.

Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar emphasised the importance of mutual respect and friendship based on dialogue to find solutions to problems, in a response letter written to Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a Turkish Defense Ministry statement said. 

“The letter reiterated the discomfort from the style and approach that was not in line with the spirit of alliance,” the statement said. 

Earlier this month, Shanahan had sent a letter to Akar in which he said Washington will cut short a training programme on F-35 fighter jets for Turkish pilots over "safety concerns."

Tensions between the US and Turkey have been increasing in recent months over Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defence systems.

According to Washington, the purchasing of S-400 by Turkey will jeopardise the F-35 fighter jet programme.

The US also has long been threatening Turkey with sanctions if it completed the S-400 sale.

According to a Turkish Defense Ministry source, who spoke to TRT World: “The control of both F-35 and S400 issues are in Turkey’s hands.”

What is next?

The ministry official said Turkey was still optimistic that the aircraft will come to Turkey although there may be a delay in their receipt.

The source said Turkey would receive the planes because it was in a partnership agreement with other partners.

“We have fulfilled all our obligations exactly up to the point,” the source continued.

“Turkey’s leading defence companies are producing sub-systems for this project,” the source added, emphasising Turkey’s role in the F-35 programme.

Turkey has already spent $1.5 billion on the programme, the source said.

S-400 systems were designated for defence use and were therefore not a problem for NATO, the source explained.

Matthew Bryza, a former Obama administration official and former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, told TRT World that he does not think Turkey’s NATO membership is in danger. 

“It is unimaginable for me that NATO would banish a Member State from its ranks without a long period of very deep deterioration within NATO,” Byza said.

The former ambassador said that Washington’s decision was final and took months to reach.

“This letter reflects months of policy planning and debate in Washington, leading to a joint decision by all relevant US Government agencies to take the steps outlined by Acting Secretary Shanahan,” he explained.

Bryza suggested that a possible way to decrease tensions was: “[To] form a joint operational commission consisting of the US and Turkish military officers who work together at all times to make sure the S-400 radar systems are shut off any time an F-35 is in flight.”

Turkey wants delivery

Turkey was supposed to have received 100 F-35 fighter planes in 2019, but the Trump administration postponed the crucial delivery for the second time in April. 

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme is the world’s most expensive arms project to date and Turkey is a key producer of the F-35 manufacturing parts for all variants and customers. 

Removing Turkey from the programme could be a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed among the member states of the programme, according to Turkish legal experts.

Source: TRT World