Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that 'nobody' is in a position to issue Turkey ultimatums regarding its policy when asked to comment on US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan's recent letter to Ankara threatening to block F-35 deliveries over Turkey's S-400 purchase.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday at a news conference with his French counterpart, Cavusoglu said the Pentagon chief's letter will not make Turkey back down on the S-400s, and repeated Ankara's call to create a working group, with Russian participation, to address any US concerns over the Russian air defence system.
Last week, Shanahan sent his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar a list of actions the US would take if Ankara went ahead with its defence deal with Russia, with Turkey given until the end of July to suspend the S-400 contract or face non-delivery of the F-35. According to Shanahan, the S-400 is incompatible with US and NATO systems, and poses a "threat" to "the security of platforms like the F-35." On Wednesday, Akar criticised the defence secretary's letter, saying the language used by Shanahan "contradicts the spirit" of the Turkish-US alliance and adding that Ankara was "preparing a fitting response".
Earlier this week, Turkish media reported, citing the country's 'security bureaucracy', that Ankara has plans to find alternatives to the F-35 if the US cancels delivery, with these options including the purchase of advanced Russian or Chinese jets, or the creation of a new homegrown fighter platform.
US officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over the S-400 deal, with one DoD official recently claiming that the deployment of the Russian systems in Turkey would be "devastating, not only to the F-35 programme," but for "Turkish interoperability with NATO" as well.
The first batch of S-400s is expected to be delivered to Turkey in July. Designed to repulse incoming aircraft, drones, and ballistic missiles, the system is presently the most advanced mobile air defence platform in Russia's arsenal.