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Turkey insists Russian missile deal will go through, plans additional work with Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again insisted he will go through with the purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia and will also cooperate with Moscow on producing S-500 systems in the future, despite U.S. pressure against the deals.

“There is absolutely no question of [Turkey] taking a step back from the S-400s purchase. That is a done deal,” Erdogan said on May 18 in a question-and-answer session with university students in Istanbul.

“There will be joint production of the S-500 after the S-400,” Erdogan added.

He added that he still expected the United States to allow Ankara to participate in production of F-35 fighter jets amid threats from Washington that Turkey could be excluded if it buys the Russian missile system. Turkey has also ordered 100 of the jets for its military.

The Americans “are passing the ball around in the midfield now, showing some reluctance. But sooner or later, we will receive the F-35s. [The United States] not delivering them is not an option,” he said during the televised session.

The administration of President Donald Trump and members of the U.S. Congress have called on Turkey to cancel its planned purchase of the Russian air-defense system, which Western powers say is incompatible with NATO systems and poses a threat to U.S.-made warplanes.

Erdogan told the students, however, that Ankara conducted technical studies and had found that no such problems existed.

Erdogan said the S-400s were expected to be delivered in July, but he added that “this could be brought forward.”

In early May, the U.S. defense chief warned that Turkey’s participation in F-35 production work could be terminated because of Ankara’s actions.

Turkey, as a NATO member, is participating in the production of parts for the fighter jet for use by alliance militaries.