Turkey denies scrapping Russia missile deal after US pressure

Turkey has been under pressure from the United States to walk away from a deal with Russia to buy its S-400 air defense system. The US fears that the deal could undermine the NATO military alliance.

Turkey has dismissed a report in a German newspaper that claimed Turkish officials had canceled a deal to acquire a Russian anti-aircraft missile system due to US pressure.

"The S-400 delivery is a done deal," Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wrote on Twitter.

Read more: Turkish-Russian missile deal puts NATO on edge

In its Saturday edition, the German Bild newspaper quoted a high-ranking Turkish diplomat as saying: "There will be no delivery of the S-400 in July, as the Turkish president had [earlier] announced."

The diplomat reportedly said his government feared that the US could respond with sanctions if the country bought the system, which would be the "economic downfall" of Turkey.

The Russian government also denied the report, with the Russian Interfax news agency quoting an unnamed military source that the deal with Turkey had not been scrapped.

US pressure

Turkey's plan to buy the air defense system has been a cause of tension within the NATO military alliance, which both the United States and Turkey belong to. The US and other member states fear that Russia could spy on NATO aircraft through the S-400 system.

To discourage Ankara from entering the deal, Washington suspended a joint F-35 fighter jet program and threatened it with further economic sanctions.

The US has also offered the more expensive US-made Patriot system at a discounted price. Turkey has shown an interest in the Patriot system, but not at the cost of breaking its contract with Russia.

During a visit to Moscow last month, President Erdogan said that Russia and Turkey must "strengthen cooperation in the military-technical sphere."

"These regard first of all the completion of the contract to supply S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Turkey," Putin said before suggesting that there were other military projects in the pipeline.

Read more: Turkey threatens retaliation against US if Washington halts weapons sales

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Jovial gestures belie multiple disputes

May 16, 2017: Trump welcomes Erdogan to Washington, saying both presidents have a "great relationship" and would make it "even better." Erdogan congratulates Trump on his "legendary" 2016 election win but complains bitterly about US arming of the Kurdish YPG militia, claiming that its inclusion in the US-led campaign against IS in in war-torn Syria provides a cover for Kurdish separatism.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Melee becomes further irritant

May 17: As Erdogan ends his visit, Voice of America video footage emerges showing his guards assaulting Kurdish protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington. A month later, US authorities issue arrest warrants for 12 members of Erdogan's security detail, who had long returned to Turkey. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the assaults breached "legitimate" free speech.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

First anniversary of coup attempt

July 15, 2017: Turkey marks the first anniversary of the failed coup attempt. In a post-coup bid crackdown 50,000 people were arrested, accused of links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, an Erdogan ally-turned-rival. Tens of thousands more face job suspensions. The refusal of the US to extradite Gulen has been a major sore spot in relations.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Turkey 'uneasy' about US arming of Kurdish militia

August 23: US Defense Secretary James Mattis visits Ankara as the Pentagon stresses US commitment to bilateral relations and "honest dialogue." Mattis had just visited Iraq to assess the anti-IS campaign. Erdogan tells Turkish media that Turkey will thwart any attempt by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to establish a "terror corridor" in northern Syria through to the Mediterranean.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Turkey arrests US consulate employee

October 5: Turkish authorities arrest Metin Topuz, a Turkish national employed at the US consulate in Istanbul. He is formally charged with espionage and collaboration in the 2016 coup attempt. The US embassy in Ankara subsequently says it is "deeply disturbed" by the arrest. It's reportedly the second since March, when a Turkish US consulate employee was arrested in Adana.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

US and Turkey suspend their respective visa services

October 8-9: The United States suspends its issuance of non-immigrant visa applications to Turkish nationals, saying it has to "reassess" Turkish readiness to respect security at US diplomatic missions. Turkey suspends its visa services for US nationals and summons another staffer at the US consulate in Istanbul.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Attempts to make amends

November 6: The US Embassy in Ankara announces that it is reinstating its visa program for Turkish tourists on a "limited" basis after receiving assurances from the government that no employees will be detained "for carrying out official duties." Shortly thereafter, Turkey confirms that it is also resuming visa services for US citizens one day before Prime Minister Yildirim visits Washington.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

At odds over Russian missiles

December through August, 2018: In December, Turkey announced it would buy the Russian S-400 missile system, which is incompatable with NATO systems. The US Congress has included a provision in a defense bill that would cut Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program if it moves forward with the S-400 deal.

NATO partners adrift: USA and Turkey

Release the pastor ... or else

August 1, 2018: The US sanctions Turkey's interior and justice ministers over the continued detention of pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson had been moved from prison to house arrest in late July, but that fell short of US demands for his immediate release and end to terror and espionage charges. Brunson was arrested almost two years ago.

shs/amp (Reuters, AFP)

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.