U.S. VP Pence warns Turkey against buying Russian air defenses

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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that he expected to solve a dispute with Turkey over its purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system, a day after the United States halted the delivery of equipment related to the F-35 aircraft to Ankara.

"We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians and will start co-production", President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month. In a letter to leading appropriators, House members called for fresh language last week restricting U.S. funding to support the jets if Turkey buys the S-400.

Tensions between the USA and Turkey reached new heights this week after the Pentagon said it would halt the transfer of F-35 equipment to the key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

The Pentagon also said today that it was looking for secondary sources for Turkish-produced parts for the F-35.

U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

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"The United States has been clear that Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable", said acting Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers Jr.

"Turkey is a partner in the supply chain in the Joint Strike Fighter, so we not only have to look at whether we can transfer those assets to Turkey, but we also have to determine what role Turkey could play in the supply chain", Tillis said.

"We are not choosing between Russian Federation and any other allies", Cavusoglu said at a NATO event in Washington hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank.

Turkey's foreign minister said the plans to purchase the S-400 system is "a done deal" and U.S. President Donald Trump said he would take care of the F-35 deal.

Washington has repeatedly cautioned Turkey against the purchase of the S-400 system, warning it might be used to covertly obtain critical information on the F-35, including its detection range, which could then be relayed to Russian Federation.

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"I am very confident in the Patriot proposal that we've delivered to Turkey, its availability, it's pricing, and very importantly, the industrial participation that comes along with the Patriot system". "It would store data on the F-35 just by its mere presence in Turkey, and then that data would be consistently updated by Russians who visit Turkey".

A small number of Turkish pilots are already training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on the next-generation aircraft and some of the plane's parts are manufactured in Turkey. It includes 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhance Missiles, 60 PAC-3 ballistic missile defense variants, and support equipment for a total estimated cost of $3.5 billion.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the planned S-400 buy was concerning and "not the action that one would expect from an ally", while Sen. Shanahan added that Washington is trying to convince Ankara to buy US Patriot systems instead of the Russian-made ones. And CNBC reported in September that Russian Federation had begun constructing a site for its air defense system.

Last year, two F-35's were symbolically delivered to Turkey by Lockheed Martin, in a ceremony at its Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 assembly plant. The Turkish lira fell by 2% amid news of the United States move to halt equipment deliveries and the ruling party's setbacks in local elections.

"Although they've said, even Erdogan has said, that the S-400 is a done deal, I don't personally think it's a done deal yet", he said. "Basically 99.9% of the meetings the U.S. takes with the Turks on this issue don't fundamentally matter because those people aren't empowered to negotiate".

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