Turkey, US hold talks on Ankara's expulsion from F-35 program

The Pentagon on Oct. 27 announced that a U.S. Department of Defense delegation visited Ankara to discuss the remaining issues resulting from Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program. Earlier, top advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Erdoğan spoke about defense issues.

An F-35 readies to leave the flight line for a sortie at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, U.S. Feb. 16, 2021.

Duvar English - Reuters

The Pentagon on Oct. 27 announced that a U.S. Department of Defense delegation visited Ankara to discuss the remaining issues resulting from Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program.

Turkey, a manufacturer and buyer of the F-35s, was expelled from the program over its purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems. It says its removal is unjust and has demanded reimbursement of $1.4 billion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Washington offered Ankara a package of F-16 jets and modernization kits in exchange for the payment, but the United States has said it offered no such financial plan.

According to the Pentagon, Principal Director for Europe and NATO Policy Andrew L. Winternitz and Director for Planning, Programs and Analysis in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Melissa Benkert led the delegation to Ankara.

The Turkish delegation was composed of representatives from the Defense Ministry, it said. 

"The meeting demonstrates the commitment of the United States Government to conclude respectfully Turkey’s prior involvement in the F-35 program. Discussions were productive, and the delegations plan to meet again in the coming months in Washington, D.C." 

Another statement was released from the Turkish Defense Ministry, which said that U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held a phone call to discuss cooperation, as well as regional defense and security issues. 

Turkish presidential advisers discuss defense relationship, disagreements

Earlier on Oct. 27, top advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden and President Erdoğan spoke about defense issues and how to resolve disagreements, the White House said.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Erdoğan adviser and spokesperson İbrahim Kalın discussed a range of issues including defense ties, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the South Caucasus and the eastern Mediterranean, the White House said.

"They also agreed on the importance of continued dialogue to manage disagreements and maintain constructive bilateral ties," it noted. 

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said Sullivan and Kalın discussed the F-35 fighter jet program and Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 jets and modernization kits. They talked about details of the planned meeting between Erdoğan and Biden in Glasgow later this month, TRT said.

It said the officials had emphasized the strategic importance of Turkish-U.S. ties, of discussing issues with “mutual respect, understanding and within the framework of common interests,” and of adhering to international agreements.

Kalın told Sullivan that Turkey’s battle against militia in Syria that “threaten our country’s border security and Syria’s territorial integrity,” including the U.S.-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), would continue in a determined way, TRT reported.

Turkey has carried out three military incursions into northern Syria since 2016 targeting the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Turkish officials said two weeks ago that Ankara is preparing further military action if talks with Russia and the United States do not yield results.