UPDATE WITH BAHCELI'S REMARKS ON GREEK PM
By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - A Turkish opposition leader said Wednesday that purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense systems is not only a matter of national security.
"[...] it is an indispensable part of our [Turkish] statehood," said Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) at his party’s parliamentary group meeting in the capital Ankara.
"Whether the U.S. likes it or not, the purchase of S-400 is a question of our existence," said Bahceli, who has worked in alliance with the ruling party in recent elections, and also has an alliance in Turkey’s parliament.
Turkey is set to receive the missile systems by July, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have escalated in recent months over the S-400 purchase, which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey's role in the F-35 fighter jet program and could trigger sanctions.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400s.
U.S. officials urged Turkey to buy U.S. Patriot missiles, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Turkey has urged formation of a commission to clarify any technical issues, but the U.S. has failed to respond to this proposal.
- Greek action in E. Mediterranean
Bahceli slammed remarks by Greek premier Alexis Tsipras on the Eastern Mediterranean at a recent meeting in Brussels.
"Our patience is wearing thin. Greece is playing with fire," said Bahceli.
After an EU meeting last week, Tsipras had said: "I hope the EU sends a clear message to Turkey to stop its illegal activities in [Greek] Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone."
The Turkish politician added: "Greek government should know that there are no pirates in the Aegean and Mediterranean who can block us. Tsipras should give up threatening [Turkey], and should remember history."
Bahceli noted that Turkey's drilling vessels will continue their search operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the region and that Ankara has the right to conduct hydrocarbon drilling.
Turkey’s Fatih drillship launched offshore operations in May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island, and is set to be joined by another drillship, Yavuz.