Turkey is still interested in Patriot defense systems, Turkish official says


Turkish government is still in talks with Washington about a possible sale of Patriot missile defense systems, a senior Turkish official said Friday.

It was Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Öztürk Yılmaz, who visited Washington last week, first told a group of Turkish journalists on Friday that Turkey contacted Americans about the Patriot systems two to three weeks ago.

The Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Öztürk's remarks and said that Turkey was routinely conducting this kind of talks, and Turkish expectation on the deal has not changed. "For us, technology transfer and joint production are the necessary conditions for a purchase," the official said.

Turkey has recently reached an agreement with Russia to buy S-400 missile defense systems. Both Turkish and Russian side acknowledged that Turkey paid a down payment for the weapons. The Turkish official said Ankara had intended to use the Russian system for urgent needs and was still looking for another system for longer term use.

Yılmaz, who had a series of meetings with the officials from the White House, the State Department and Pentagon, said even though two countries reach a deal on a possible sale of Patriot, it would be almost impossible to get it authorized by the Congress due to severe anti-Turkey sentiment.

At the White House, Yılmaz, a former senior Turkish diplomat, met a large delegation of American officials, including Fiona Hill, deputy assistant to the President and senior director for European and Russian Affairs, and Molly Montgomery, special advisor for Europe, Eurasia and Russia.

Yılmaz said in his interactions with the American officials made him think that U.S. wouldn't budge from its support to terror group PKK's Syrian armed wing People's Protection Forces (YPG) against Daesh. "But American officials are looking for ways to re-vitalize the relations, and satisfy Turkish concerns in Syria and in the region" he said.

Many experts in Washington previously told Daily Sabah that the Trump administration had not had a Turkey policy. This extended meeting with senior American officials with an opposition leader suggests that the White House is doing a prep work on a new strategy.

Yılmaz believes American officials are more closely following the Turkish domestic politics and in his meetings with the Congressmen, he realized that they have much more awareness about the Turkish affairs.

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