Turkey has not been removed from F-35 programme - foreign minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that the United States had not removed Turkey from the joint programme to produce F-35 stealth fighter jets, Anadolu Agency reported.

The Pentagon suspended Turkish participation in the F-35 programme last month after Turkey started receiving shipments of Russian S-400 missile defence systems. 

“There is no such thing like Turkey’s official removal from the programme,” Çavuşoğlu told a press conference in Ankara. 

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey believed the two allies could resolve their differences over several issues independent of the S-400 dispute. “Otherwise both countries take steps, relations strain unnecessarily and this is to nobody’s benefit," he said.

Some 42 Turkish pilots and maintenance crew who were receiving training in the United States as part of the programme returned to Turkey on Aug. 1 after the suspension decision.

Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive officer of U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, said last month that the company expected all Turkish firms to be removed from the F-35 fighter jet supply chain by March 2020.  Companies in Turkey are completing their present production contracts, but are not being given any new ones.

“Production in Turkey is still continuing,” Çavuşoğlu said.