Erdogan seeks solution with Biden over F-35 jets

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said he wanted to find a solution to Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 fighter jet programme with the new US administration under Joe Biden.

Ties between the two NATO allies have been strained by Washington’s decision last month to punish Ankara for its purchase of the S-400 Russian air defence system with sanctions on its military procurement agency.

Washington initially responded by suspending Turkey in 2019 from the F-35 programme of which Ankara was a major buyer and parts manufacturer.

US officials warn that the S-400 system is incompatible with NATO hardware and could help Russia better target Western warplanes.

Erdogan called the US decision not to deliver the F-35 jets to Turkey “a serious mistake”.

But he added: “I hope that we can hold talks and see positive results on this issue after Biden’s inauguration,” which will take place next week.

Erdogan also said Turkey would have discussions with Russia on a second consignment of the S-400 system at the end of January.

Turkish officials have said the second consignment was part of the original deal Ankara signed with Moscow in 2017.

“We take our defence-related steps without seeking permission from elsewhere,” Erdogan told reporters.

“We won’t allow another country to steer our path.”

Biden’s administration is expected to be more hostile to Turkey than the outgoing one of Donald Trump, who called Erdogan his “good friend”, and officials in Ankara have indicated their desire for improving relations.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar earlier this week urged dialogue with the US to resolve tensions over the S-400 purchase.