Turkey needs to 'get rid of' S-400s to overcome impasse: US

A senior U.S. State Department official said on Nov. 21 that Turkey needs to "get rid of" the Russian S-400 missile defense system it purchased to overcome a standoff with Washington. Earlier on the same day, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey will activate the S-400s as planned.

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Turkey needs to "get rid of" the Russian S-400 missile defense system it purchased to overcome a standoff with Washington, a senior U.S. State Department official said at a briefing on Nov. 21.

"There is room for Turkey to come back to the table. They know that to make this work they need to either destroy or return or somehow get rid of the S-400," the official was quoted as telling reporters by Reuters.

"They (Turkey) know that they have the choice to move forward and the choice is to rid themselves of the S-400 so that we can move forward," the official said, and added that the risk of U.S. sanctions, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), was still a possibility. 

"The timeline on CAATSA sanctions is not prescribed or absolute," he said, adding that it took Washington nine months to impose sanctions on China under the same law over Beijing's purchase of Russian fighter jets. 

Earlier on Nov. 21, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in the parliament's planning and budget committee that Turkey will activate, as planned, the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Training efforts are ongoing for the operation of the missile defense hardware, Akar was quoted as telling lawmakers by state-run Anadolu Agency.

"After this process is completed, we will conduct our planned activities [on the S-400 defense missile system],” the minister said.  

Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey's purchase of the S-400s, which Washington says are not compatible with NATO defenses and pose a threat to its F-35 stealth fighter jets. 

In response, the United States suspended Turkey from the F-35 program and warned of possible U.S. sanctions over the deal, although it has yet to impose them. 

Last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump met at the White House to discuss mounting differences ranging from the S-400s to Syria policy. During the talks, Trump urged Erdoğan to drop the S-400 systems in lieu of U.S. Patriot systems.  

Ankara began receiving the S-400 system last July but it is not yet operational.