Although ups and downs in their relations, Turkey and the United States will overcome their differences through a comprehensive and strategic alliance, Turkey’s defense minister has said, calling on Washington to reconsider the Turkish exclusion from the F-35 joint jetfighter program as Ankara is ready to address any issue related with the deployment of Russian S-400 missiles.
“With regards to the F-35 program, all U.S. government reports have shown that Turkey’s suspension from the program has brought production risks for critical components for the F-35 aircraft delaying the production timeline and increasing costs. They should reconsider their decision,” Hulusi Akar said at a webinar held by the Washington-based Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) on late July 28.
The U.S. had decided to suspend the Turkish participation in the multinational F-35 joint fighter program in reaction to Turkey’s deployment of S-400 air defense systems from Russia on the grounds that the Russia’s sophisticated equipment could jeopardize the stealth qualifications of the fifth generation warplanes.
“Turkey is not just a customer of the F-35 program, but a partner. The security of F-35 technology is vital for Turkey as it is for the US. We are ready to address any US concerns about the S- 400/F-35 compatibility issue on a technical basis,” he said.
The U.S. has not answered Turkey’s calls for setting up a joint committee to examine the U.S. concerns over the deployment of the S-400s on Turkish territories.
Akar described Turkish exclusion from the program as “unjust” as Turkey’s defense industry has continued to supply key parts of the aircraft despite the pandemic.
The defense minister recalled that the ties between Turkey and the U.S. had “ups and downs” historically but expressed his belief that they will overcome their differences through their comprehensive and strategic alliance based on common values and interests.
“I believe that the scope of the cooperation between Turkey and the U.S. will be expanded if Turkey would be granted to contribute as a stronger partner,” he suggested.
Turkey central to NATO’s security
Akar also emphasized Turkey’s role in defending Europe as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“NATO is central to Turkey’s security, and Turkey is central to NATO,” he said. “Our commitment to NATO is solid, and we will continue to shoulder our fair share of the burden.”
The defense minister pointed out that Turkey has contributed the fifth-most troops and seventh-most money to NATO operations, calling these contributions “essential to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Membership to EU still an objective
Akar also touched on Turkey’s troubled relationship with the European Union. “Membership in the EU remains our political objective,” he said, adding, “Turkey’s EU relationships are deep-rooted, multidimensional, and crucial, not only for Turkey and the EU, but also for the whole region.”
He said that Turkish membership would be the “best investment for the European Union,” citing “extensive economic relations with the EU.”