ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey intends to seek compensation for its removal from a U.S.-led stealth fighter jet program, possibly during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the margins of a Group of 20 meeting next month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Erdogan, speaking to journalists during a flight back from a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, also said there would be no “turning back” from deal with Russia for Turkey’s acquisition of S-400 advanced missile defense systems. That deal led to NATO-member Turkey’s removal from the international program that produces F-35 fighter jets.
Erdogan said he hoped to meet Biden at the G-20 meeting in Rome to discuss the F-35 project, including a $1.4 billion payment Turkey had made before its ouster from the program. Another meeting between the Turkish and U.S. leaders could also take place on the sidelines of a November climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Erdogan said.
“We made a $1.4 billion payment, what will become of that?” Erdogan said. “We did not - and do not - earn this money easily. Either they will give us our planes or they will give us the money.”
Asked about Turkey’s plans to purchase additional S-400 systems despite threats of further U.S. sanctions, Erdogan responded: “The S-400 process continues. There is no turning back.” His comments were reported by the private Turkish news channel NTV and other media.
Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and its defense officials were sanctioned after the country bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system two years ago. The U.S. strongly objects NATO members using the Russian system, saying it poses a security threat to the F-35s.
Turkey maintains the S-400's components could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.
The U.S. also sanctioned Turkey for its purchase under a 2017 law aimed at pushing back Russian influence. The move was the first time that the law, known as CAATSA, was used to penalize a U.S. ally.
Erdogan's talks with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi focused on steps that would deepen defense cooperation between Turkey and Russia, including partnerships for aircraft engines, fighter jets and submarines, the Turkish leader said.
Russia also could be involved in the construction of Turkey’s second and third nuclear power plants, and of a space launch platform, he said.
Erdogan traveled to Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria, where Turkey and Russia back opposing sides in the conflict. Russia is the main ally of the Syrian government, while Turkey supports groups that have fought to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russian and Turkish troops have, however, cooperated in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province - the final holdout of rebel forces - and in seeking a political solution in the country.
Erdogan said he and Putin agreed to continue to work together toward restoring calm in Idlib.