Erdoğan says he told Biden Turkey is not shifting stance on S-400s, F-35 programme

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that he told U.S. President Joe Biden that Washington should not expect Turkey to take a different step on the F-35 and S-400 issues.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he had told U.S. President Joe Biden at their first meeting that Turkey would not change its stance on its Russian S-400 missile defense systems over which Washington sanctioned Ankara.

Biden and Erdoğan sounded upbeat after their face-to-face talks on June 14, although the NATO allies did not announce any major breakthroughs in disputes including the S-400s, Syria and other issues.

Ankara's purchase of the S-400s has strained ties with the United States and NATO allies over concerns that the systems are not compatible with the alliance's defences and may threaten the U.S. F-35 fighter jets. Turkey, which was expelled from the jet programme over the Russian systems, rejects the concerns.

"I told Biden that they should not expect Turkey to take a different step on the F-35 and S-400 issues because we did what we had to for the F-35s and gave the necessary money," Erdoğan told reporters on a return flight from Azerbaijan.

"We must monitor developments closely. We will be following up on all our rights," he said. "In the next period, our foreign ministers, defence ministers and defence industry chairs will be moving this process forward by meeting with their counterparts."

Ankara and Washington have been trying to put aside their differences and focus on areas of cooperation, such as Afghanistan and Syria, although Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria, which it considers a terrorist group.

Erdoğan said he conveyed Turkey's views on the issue at his meeting with Biden.

Turkey has also offered to guard and operate Kabul's airport after U.S. and NATO forces withdraw. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said on June 14 that Turkey would play a key role there but that no decision was made at the summit.

"Following the U.S. decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Turkey can take up a lot more responsibilities here," Erdoğan said, without elaborating.

Last week, the Taliban said Turkey should withdraw troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 U.S. pullout deal, effectively rejecting Ankara's proposal over the Kabul airport. The Taliban in April also refused to participate in a peace conference on Afghanistan hosted by Turkey.

Erdoğan said on June 14 that Turkey would continue talks with the Taliban on the issue, but that there were no issues with the planning of the airport mission.