UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS, MEETINGS
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish and U.S. defense chiefs exchanged views on Syria and the F-35 fighter jet project on Wednesday, according to statement from Turkey’s National Defense Ministry.
The statement said Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met in the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The officials addressed other issues regarding the bilateral security and defense cooperation during the meeting as well, according to the statement.
The meeting also underscored that it is important to continue the dialogue between the two countries.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have escalated in recent months over the Russian S-400 air defense systems 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.
Akar also met his Greek counterpart Evangelos Apostolakis in the NATO headquarters, according to statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry.
During the meeting, the Turkish defense minister said Ankara will make no compromise on national rights and interests, and stressed the importance of avoiding provocative behaviors in Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
He also met with U.K.’s Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the head of NATO Military Committee Stuart Peach.
*Writing by Faruk Zorlu