Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed with US President Donald Trump the prospect of creating a working group on the controversy surrounding the country obtaining Russian S-400 air defence systems. The initiative to create the group came from the Turkish president.
Apart from this, the two presidents discussed the situation in Syria and cooperation in the sphere of combating terrorism.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on 3 April that Ankara had proposed to Washington the creation of a working group to ensure that Russian defence systems won't pose a threat to American F-35 fighter jets. The US has remained silent and hasn't responded to the statement.
The US has been trying to force Turkey to abandon its deal with Russia, which was inked in December 2017, on the procurement of Russian state-of-the-art air defences. Washington claims that they are incompatible with the air defence grid of NATO allies and pose a threat to F-35 jets, scheduled to be delivered to Tukey this year.
Washington insists that once deployed in Turkey, the S-400s could reveal weaknesses of the F-35 and pass on the information to Moscow. The US offered Turkey to buy the Patriot air defence system, which is only capable of intercepting missiles, instead of the more versatile S-400, which can also down enemy drones and jets.
The White House threatened Ankara with suspending the delivery of F-35 jets if it doesn't abandon its purchase of S-400s, prompting criticism from Turkey. The situation is further complicated by the fact that some of the jet's parts are produced by Turkish factories, with the US now looking for ways to shift their production to Europe.
Erdogan has repeatedly stated that the country will not abandon the S-400 deal, noting that the Russian system was chosen because Moscow had offered a better deal than the US. What is more, head of Russia's state arms exporter Aleksandr Mikheev revealed on 29 April that Turkey had also shown interest in other Russian air defences of various ranges, as well as anti-tank weaponry. At the same time, Ankara didn't exclude buying American Patriots in addition to the S-400.