In an emailed response to Bloomberg ahead of Thursday's virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers, Akar again underlined Turkey's commitment to put the Russian systems into service. Last week, the US State Department warned that activation of S-400s could potentially lead to "serious consequences" for the "security relationship" between Washington and Ankara.
However, Akar insisted that the Russian-made hardware won't be integrated into NATO's command-and-control infrastructure, but rather "used as a standalone system." Its deployment will be similar to the practice of the "use of Russian-made S-300 weapons that exist within NATO," he explained, likely referring to neighboring Greece which operates such systems.
Akar also appeared to confirm recent media reports in relation to Turkey's successful S-400 tests, which, according to sources, the Turkish military carried out in the north of the country.
"Every defense procurement includes tests and system controls," he said, when asked about the drills. Washington earlier insisted that such tests were "incompatible with Turkey's responsibilities as a NATO ally and strategic partner of the US."
Turkey purchased S-400s from Russia in 2019 and previously announced plans to make the systems fully operational by the end of this year. The deal led to Washington suspending Ankara from the F-35 fighter-jet program and threatening further sanctions.
But the minister didn't rule out the possibility of Turkey also buying US-made Patriot air defense systems under the "right conditions." Referring to the opposition to such a contract in the US Congress, he said: "If you are selling a system, it is your duty to persuade whoever necessary and deliver the system."
So far, "only Russia has responded to Turkey's needs suitably" in terms of arms supplies, Akar pointed out.
The spat over the S-400s comes amid somewhat strained relations between Washington and Ankara over a number of issues, including American support for Kurdish forces in Syria, which Turkey views as a threat to its national security, and the US' harboring of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of masterminding a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
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