Turkish defence minister Fikri Isik said on 22 February that Turkey has made progress in talks with Russia for the purchase of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems. However, Isik noted that they were not yet ready to sign a contract.
Isik's remarks came following a statement made by the CEO of Russia's state-owned defence conglomerate Rostech on 20 February that Russia and Turkey are currently negotiating a deal for the purchase of the S-400 Triumf missile system.
"The negotiations are under way, the question of financing is being discussed right now," Russia's Sputnik Agency quoted Sergei Chemezov as saying.
In response, Isik told Turkish news channel NTV that Turkey was talking with various countries and companies for the country's urgent air defence requirement. However, he also said that "Russia's S-400 missile system seems to be the most possible in discussions. We have made certain progress."
Isik also for the first time publicly clarified Turkey's emerging strategy to initially buy an off-the-shelf product, while also developing its own long-range missile systems indigenously.
"Turkey is in need of systems permanently to protect itself against missile and air attacks. We (Turkey) have two methods. First is to buy them to meet our urgent requirement. The second is to develop our own air and missile defence systems," Isik said. "We have already initiated a programme to develop them indigenously. Until we came to that point we held talks with various companies. We earlier abandoned the Chinese option. But now according to the talks conducted, Russia's S- 400 systems have appeared to have been the closest so far."
When questioned about NATO member states' concerns over the possible deal, Isik replied, "I think they will understand. Some NATO countries also have non-NATO systems", in reference to the Russian-made S-300s in the Greece's inventory.
He said Turkey would not be able to use the NATO database if Ankara preferred to purchase a Russian system.
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