14:59 GMT23 April 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in his phone conversation with Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar called on Ankara not to retain the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, the Defense Department announced in a release on Thursday.

    “Secretary Austin and Minster Akar discussed the instability along NATO’s eastern and southern flanks, including challenges posed by Russia,” the release said. “Secretary Austin noted the importance of working to strengthen US-Turkey military-to-military cooperation, and urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 missile defense system.”

    Ankara's purchase of the S-400 systems has been a point of contention in US-Turkish relations since July 2019. Washington has demanded that Ankara refuse the deal, threatening to cancel deliveries of F-35 fighters. Ankara has so far resisted, even in the face of sanctions on its defense sector that were imposed in December 2020, and is negotiating with Russia the delivery of the second batch of S-400 systems.

    Austin thanked Akar for Turkey’s role in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and for its support of the ongoing peace process, the release said.

    “The two leaders also discussed the positive diplomatic developments and efforts to reduce all tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Secretary welcomed ongoing exploratory talks between NATO Allies Turkey and Greece and the commitment of both governments to this process,” the release said. “Secretary Austin also highlighted cooperation among Allies and partners in the Black Sea, including recent exercises that included the USS Monterey and USS Thomas Hudner and Turkish naval assets.”

    Turkish officials earlier told Sputnik that Ankara's stance on the use of the Russian S-400 air defense systems remains unchanged: Turkey does not need the US permit for that. According to a spokesman for the parliamentary defense committee, Turkey had made its decision on S-400s a long time ago and would not back down from it.
    Tags:
    sanctions, weapons, US, Turkey
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