Ankara will respond if the United States suspends delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to Turkey, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said on May 25.
The bill passed by the U.S. Senate committee, including a measure to prevent Turkey from purchasing Lockheed Martin F-35 jets is “against the spirit of our alliance with the U.S.,” Aksoy told reporters in a press conference.
“Some senators in the U.S. have drafted bills to prevent the transfer of F-35 fighter aircrafts to our country. In this bill, the F-35’s shipment is attributed to the abandonment of Priest Brunson’s detention, and giving up on the S-400 purchase. These are different issues. One should not put apples and pears in the same basket,” he said.
“This is not a program managed solely by the U.S. It is a multinational program and we expect everybody to fulfill their obligations,” said Aksoy, adding that Turkey has “fulfilled its obligations” regarding the F-35 program.
If the U.S. takes such steps “we will have to respond,” the spokesperson said.
Turkey will take every initiative to protect its firms from U.S. sanctions, Aksoy also said, a day after the United States imposed sanctions on several Iranian and Turkish companies in a move targeting Iranian airlines.
A U.S. committee passed its version of a $716 billion defense policy bill on May 24, including a measure to prevent Turkey from purchasing Lockheed Martin F-35Joint Strike Fighter jets.
The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, from Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Senator Thom Tillis, would remove Turkey from the F-35 program over its detention of U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, Shaheen’s office said.
Brunson, a Christian pastor who could be jailed for up to 35 years, denied terrorism and spying charges in a Turkish court this month. He has been in pre-trial detention since 2016.
It also faults NATO ally Turkey for its agreement with Russia in December 2017 to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries. Ankara wants the system to boost its defensecapabilities amid conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.
According to Shaheen’s office, the intention to purchase the Russian system is sanctionable under U.S. law.
“There is tremendous hesitancy [about] transferring sensitive F-35 planes and technology to a nation who has purchased a Russian air defense system designed to shoot these very planes down,” said the senator.
Lockheed Martin will deliver the first F-35 fighter jet to Turkey on June 21.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained over a host of issues in recent months, including U.S. policy in Syria and a number of legal cases against Turkish and U.S. nationals being held in the two countries.