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    US Hasn't Responded to Turkey's Offer to Create Working Group on S-400s - Defence Industry Chief

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    Washington has repeatedly expressed its concerns over Ankara's decision to purchase Russia's S-400 air defence system, suggesting the platform would pose a threat to US and NATO systems, including the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter.

    The United States has not replied to Turkey's offer to create a joint working group to discuss the S-400 air defence system, Ismail Demir, head of Turkey's Defence Industries Directorate, has said.

    Speaking to reporters in Ankara on Monday, Demir indicated that Turkish officials were preparing a response to acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan's letter, which threatened to kick Turkey out of the F-35 programme if it moved forward with deliveries of its Russian-made air defence system.

    "Turkey's position on the S-400s is clear. We consider this question closed. If the US has concerns regarding the technical side of things, we have said dozens of times that we are ready to talk about this. However, so far, no steps have been taken by the other side to create a working group to discuss this subject," Demir said.

    Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara remained ready to set up an expert working group with Washington to try to allay US concerns about the S-400s and the threat they supposedly pose to the F-35. Acting Secretary Shanahan said he was 'unaware' of any plans to create a joint working group, adding that the S-400 was a "natural enemy" of the F-35 designed to shoot down the advanced US warplane.

    Late last month, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger said that the delivery of S-400s to Turkey would be "devastating, not only to the F-35 programme," but for "Turkish interoperability with NATO." According to to Wheelbarger, it would be "inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage" of opportunities to collect information on US and NATO systems, including the F-35.

    Russia and Turkey penned a $2.5 billion contract on the delivery of four battalion sets-worth of S-400s to Ankara in late 2017. Washington has issued a counteroffer, offering Turkey a $3.5 billion contract for a contingent of Patriot PAC-3s. Turkish officials have indicated that negotiations on the Patriot proposal are continuing, but have stressed that Ankara would not trade its S-400s for the US-made systems.

    The first S-400s are expected to reach Turkish soil in July, with Turkey set to become just the fourth country after Russia, Belarus and China to possess the defensive platform. The S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defence platform in Russia's arsenal.

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