‘Not easy to remove Turkey from F-35 programme’ – Turkish Presidency spokesman

Turkey has not given up on buying F-35 fighter jets from the United States despite being suspended from the programme, Turkish Presidency spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Tuesday.

The United States suspended Turkey from the production programme of the new-generation fighter jets in July, after Ankara ignored warnings from U.S. officials and took delivery of Russian-built S-400 missile defence systems.

Washington also halted the delivery of 100 F-35 jets that had Ankara ordered over concerns that the S-400 defence systems could allow possible Russian subterfuge on F-35s.

“We have not given up on the F-35s, it is not easy to remove Turkey from that program either. We believe that the crisis will be resolved sooner or later,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Kalın as saying at a press conference in Ankara.

Meanwhile, there is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for further measures to be imposed on Turkey under a sanctions bill introduced in 2017 to discourage countries from dealing with Russia’s defence industry.

However, U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for flexibility when dealing with Turkey, and is believed to oppose the sanctions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan examined Russian Su-57 jets during a visit to Moscow in late August, triggering reports that Turkey could buy the Russian built jets to replace its aging fleet of F-16s.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last month that Turkey’s first priority was to purchase F-35s, which Turkey has spent some $1.4 billion on already.