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Turkey signs major missile deal with Russia

AFP-Jiji ISTANBUL (AFP-Jiji) — Turkey has signed a deal for its first major weapons purchase from Moscow to buy S-400 missile defense systems, both sides announced Tuesday, in an accord that could trouble Ankara’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

The purchase of the surface-to-air missile defence batteries, Ankara’s most significant deal with a non-NATO supplier, comes with Turkey in the throes of a crisis in relations with several Western states.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia. A deposit has also been paid as far as I know,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday.

“Mr. Putin [President Vladimir Putin] and myself are determined on this issue,” he told Turkish journalists aboard his presidential jet returning from a trip to Kazakhstan.

Moscow also confirmed the accord, with Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser for military and technical cooperation, saying: “The contract has been signed and is being prepared for implementation.”

The purchase of the missile systems from a non-NATO supplier is raising concerns in the West over their technical compatibility with the alliance’s equipment.

The Pentagon has already sounded the alarm, saying bluntly that “generally it’s a good idea” for NATO allies to buy inter-operable equipment.

A NATO official told AFP that interoperability was “fundamental” to the alliance for the conduct of joint missions. “No NATO ally currently operates the S-400,” the official noted, adding that: “NATO has not been informed about the details of any purchase.”

But Erdogan said Turkey — which has the second-largest standing army in NATO after the United States — was free to make military acquisitions based on its defense needs.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves, we are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country,” he said.

He said Moscow would also extend a credit to Turkey for the purchase of the weapons. No financial details have been disclosed. However, signing the deal does not mean that delivery is imminent. Some analysts have suggested the message sent to the West by the military cooperation between Moscow and Ankara is as important as the delivery itself.

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