ISTANBUL - Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar dismissed the Pentagon's latest warning over Ankara's imminent procurement of Russian missiles on Thursday as "language unbecoming of an ally."
U.S. acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan's letter to his Turkish counterpart laid out a detailed timetable of Turkey's exclusion from the purchase and production of America's latest F-35 fighter jet if Ankara buys Russia's S-400 missiles system. The Pentagon claims the S-400 would compromise the F-35 and, in particular, its stealth technology that was developed to evade systems like the S-400.
Ankara disputes Washington's fears. Akar said he would speak with Shanahan on Thursday, and said a written response would follow in the "coming days."
The Pentagon letter is seen as a blow to Ankara. "It's a very serious escalation on the part of the United States. They've put the ball in Turkey's court," said international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed a diplomatic breakthrough, after a telephone call with U.S. President Donald Trump. Ankara said both sides had agreed to set up a joint committee to investigate security concerns posed by the S-400.
However, with the S-400 due to be delivered next month, time appears to be overtaking diplomatic efforts. In a further ratcheting up of bilateral tensions, the Pentagon announced the ending of training of Turkish pilots for the F-35, which it is due to receive later this year.
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