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    Efforts to Hinder Supply of US F-35s to Ankara 'Illegal' - Fmr Turkish General

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    Tensions are rising between Ankara and Washington amid reports that Tel Aviv is trying to stall the delivery of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey, or restrict software said to improve the planes' capabilities. Speaking to Sputnik, Turkish political and military experts explained what they say is the root of the diplomatic squabble.

    Air Force Lieutenant-General (ret.) Erdogan Karakus, a former airbase commander and the head of the Turkish Union of Retired Officers, has told Sputnik that that any US attempt to cheat Turkey out of its F-35s would be illegal.

    "Turkey, as a participant in the [F-35] project, has invested money, with between eight and ten Turkish companies producing a number of spare parts and components for the aircraft. Any possible US actions to impose restrictions on Turkey's participation in this project would be illegal, since it is an agreement which was legally and financially formalized a long time ago," the officer explained.

    At the moment, Karakus noted, a situation has arisen in which the Israeli lobby in Washington is looking to weaken Turkey "and jeopardize its interests, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean." 

    "In Syria, as is known, the US and Turkey have not reached an agreement on the issue of the Kurdish YPG detachments, which continue to control much of northern Syria thanks to American support. In turn, Greece, Cyprus and Israel have agreed on sharing energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel is trying to establish itself here by introducing American companies. It is here that forces attempting to weaken the positions of both Turkey and Russia in the region are active."

    The Trump administration, according to Karakus, is attempting to build up support for itself through the Israeli lobby, with this lobby including those who would seek to stop the delivery of F-35s to Ankara.

    Finally, the officer noted that "there are also forces trying to link this situation with Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense systems. But Greece has S-300s. Therefore, those who want to criticize should be silent and think carefully about their words. France, for example, does not have any military systems integrated with NATO, because France itself produces its own air defense systems, submarines, aircraft, and other weapons. This government is not threatened by sanctions; meanwhile, there is active opposition to the agreements between Turkey and Russia and attempts to deny Ankara the F-35. All of this creates an extremely tense, unhealthy situation," Karakus concluded.

    Turkey Won't Stand 'Blackmail and Threats'

    For his part, Egemen Bagis, a former lawmaker and minister in charge of Turkish-EU affairs, said that if the information concerning the Israeli role in trying to withhold the sale of F-35s to Turkey is confirmed, it would amount to little more than "blackmail."

    "Turkey," Bagis noted, "had been a participant and investor in the F-35 program from the very start. Turkey is an ally of the US and NATO and has the second most powerful army after the US in the framework of this alliance."

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    "Therefore, the attempt of Israel, a country which is not part of NATO, to exert influence on the military and strategic cooperation of two NATO countries looks inappropriate, to put it mildly," the expert said.

    Bagis stressed that Ankara always has options for ensuring its defense needs. "Today there are a number of forces trying to alienate Turkey from its allies and to jeopardize the country's national interests. But we must consider our options, and know where to draw the line. Anyone who secretly threatens or blackmails Turkey will ultimately be defeated," the politician concluded.

    Turkey's foreign minister has threatened to deny US access to the Incirlik Airbase if Washington does not go ahead with the supply of F-35s to Ankara. Earlier, Haaretz reported, citing a top Israeli defense official, that Israel is attempting to convince the US not to include the F-35's performance-enhancing software in the planes delivered to Ankara. Meanwhile, Turkish state media has said that the country may opt for Russia's Su-57 fifth gen fighters instead of F-35s if the latter deal falls through. Finally, the Pentagon has expressed hope that it can resolve alleged "operational problems" associated with Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system before F-35 deliveries go ahead.

    The views and opinions expressed by Egemen Bagis and Erdogan Karakus are those of the observers, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    expert commentary, expert analysis, S-400, Su-57, F-35, United States, Turkey, Israel
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