Turkey's acquisition of Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems is a "necessity" and not a "preference", the country's defence minister Hulusi Akar told his US counterpart Mark Esper. During the telephonic conversation that took place late on Friday, Akar told Esper that Turkey is looking at the US' proposal to purchase the latter's Patriot air defence systems, Anadolu News Agency reported.
The phone call comes as Turkey received the two shipments of S-400 missile systems on Friday and Saturday respectively. The US had warned Turkey to face "very real and very negative consequences" if it finalised the purchase of S-400. On the other hand, Ankara has repeatedly rejected Washington's ultimatums for cancelling S-400 shipments and the purchase of the American Patriot system instead.
In December 2017, Moscow and Ankara signed a loan agreement for the delivery of the S-400 air defence systems to Turkey. Since then, the US and NATO have criticised Turkey's move, citing security concerns and incompatibility with NATO air defence systems. Washington had earlier threatened Turkey with sanctions for its planned acquisition of S-400s and repeatedly said it may delay or cancel the sales of F-35 aircraft to Ankara. Turkey is one of the seven states that participate in the F-35 program.
The two defence ministers also spoke about the recent developments in Syria. Akar stated that "the only military force that is ready, competent and appropriate for the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria is the Turkish Armed Forces", Anadolu News Agency quoted a statement from the Turkish defence ministry.
"He reiterated that for Turkey, protection of its borders and people was the priority, and in the face of intensive attacks from the Syrian border, Turkey would have to take necessary measures and would not allow terrorist groups to seek safe havens right across its borders," it said. Noting that talks between both sides should be maintained, a US military delegation should be immediately sent to Ankara next week to hold negotiations on the de-escalation zone in Syria, the statement said.
In September last year, Turkey and Russia had agreed on a ceasefire on Idlib, where the two sides agreed that the province would act as the de-escalation zone and promised to refrain from staging acts of aggression in the demarcated area. However, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime have violated truce terms, launching several attacks in the safe zone.
Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since 2011. (ANI)
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