Turkey Says to Go Elsewhere if U.S. Won't Sell It F-35 Jets

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An Israel Air Force F-35 fighter plane, performing in an air show, December 27, 2018.
An Israel Air Force F-35, performing at an air show in December. The ambiguity that once characterized military operations against Iran have given way to public relations stunts.Credit: Jack Guez/AFP

Turkey will go elsewhere if the United States does not allow it to buy Lockheed Martin's F-35 jets, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by broadcaster NTV and other media on Wednesday.

A U.S. Senate committee last week passed its version of a $716 billion defense policy bill, including a measure to prevent Turkey from purchasing the jets, further straining already tense relations between the NATO allies.

Speaking to reporters on a return flight from a visit to Germany, Cavusoglu said there had not yet been any pressure from the U.S. administration to scrap a deal to buy the jets, adding this wasn't an agreement Washington could pull out of as it wished, according to NTV.

Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained in recent months over a host of issues, including President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem and U.S. policy in Syria.

Turkey has been carrying out an offensive into northern Syria's Afrin region against the Syrian Kurdish YPG since January, and has been infuriated with the support Washington has provided the YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation linked with outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.

President Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to push Turkey's operations against the YPG further east to Manbij, where U.S. trooped are stationed, risking confrontation between the allies.

However, Ankara and Washington have reached an understanding over Manbij in which the militants will leave the area, Cavusoglu said, adding a timetable for the plans could be decided during his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week.

Last week, Turkish and U.S. working groups, who met in Ankara, said they had outlined a draft for cooperation to ensure security and stability in Manbij.

If the agreement is finalised, the model could be applied to other areas in northern Syria, NTV quoted Cavusoglu as saying.

He also said Turkey's ambassador to Washington, who had been recalled for consultations after Israeli forces killed Palestinian protesters in Gaza earlier this month, could return to Washington around the time of Cavusoglu's U.S. visit.

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