Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar explained to acting US defence secretary Mark Esper that purchase of Russia S-400 missile systems was necessary for Ankara.
"National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar had a phone call with US Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper," the Ministry of National Defence said. "Minister Akar told his US counterpart that Turkey remains under a serious air and missile threat and that purchase of S-400 defence systems was not an option, but rather a necessity and Turkey was still assessing the bid to acquire US patriot air defence systems."
Turkish defence chief also said that the purchase of S-400 does not in any way mean a change of its strategic orientation.
"Minister Akar stressed that Turkey’s purchase of S-400 does not in any way mean change of its strategic orientation and reiterated that deterioration of bilateral relations would serve the interests of neither Turkey nor the US nor NATO," the ministry said in the statement on Friday.
Akar also told Esper said that Turkey still proposing to create a working group on the F-35 issue.
“Emphasizing that Turkey is a partner of the F-35 fighter aircraft program and that program should continue uninterrupted, Akar said that Turkey's proposal was still on the table for setting up a joint working group - that could include NATO - to assess the possible interaction of F-35 aircraft and S-400 systems,” the statement said. “Turkey has fulfilled all its obligations under the F-35 program and it remains committed to its position, Akar said."
Moscow and Ankara signed a loan agreement for the delivery of S-400 systems in December 2017. Turkey's cooperation with Russia on the matter has been strongly criticized by NATO and the United States, which have cited security concerns over the S-400s incompatibility with NATO's air defence systems. Washington said in June it would not accept more Turkish pilots for F-35 training unless it abandoned the agreement with Russia. Turkey refused, saying it was a done deal.