Turkey’s Erdoğan blames Obama administration for S-400 crisis
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama pushed Ankara to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems.
The Turkish president said in a televised address to members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) that the Obama administration had refused to sell U.S. Patriot missiles to Turkey and forced Turkey to buy the Russian systems to meet its defence needs.
This, Erdoğan says, left Turkey with no choice but to buy the Russian-built S-400s, despite concerns raised by U.S. officials that they could expose NATO military hardware to subterfuge. Meanwhile, experts say the Patriot deal fell through because Washington refused Turkey’s demand for joint production but that it is not clear whether Moscow had acceded to the same demand.
"We have once again explained to Mr. Trump how we got to this point, in fact, he recognises our country on the matter," Erdoğan said.
The Turkish President said he had conferred with the United States during his last visit to solve several disputes between the countries but could not completely solve the intricacies yet.
"In our meetings, we could not bring a radical solution to many of the issues between us, but we have shown the world that these issues are not holding our relations captive," Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Nov. 13 came amid anger from the U.S. Congress at Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria last month and its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence missiles earlier this year.
Turkey was ejected from the joint production programme of F-35 stealth fighters over its purchase of S-400s, and there is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to take further punitive measures against Turkey over the issue.
The insistence to punish Turkey was "a violation of Turkey's sovereign rights,” Erdoğan said, adding that he had reiterated his offer to buy U.S. Patriot missiles during his meeting with Trump.
"We also said Turkey would have to seek alternatives in order to meet its medium-term needs if the ongoing intransigent attitude over F-35 issue continued," Erdoğan said.
Ankara has been discussing with Moscow on purchase of Russian Su-35 fighter jets after its expulsion from F-35 programme.
Erdoğan said Trump was hesitant to take the big steps needed to solve issues between the countries since he is walking on thin ice due to the ongoing impeachment process and U.S. elections next year.
"God willing, our relations will gain a very strong momentum again when these processes are over. Until that day, we will continue to proceed with care," he said.