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Turkey’s Foreign Minister says row with Russia will not affect S-400 missile defence deal

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Foreign Minister of Slovenia Miro Cerar (not seen) hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Ankara, Turkey on February 10, 2020 [Cem Özdel/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that the diplomatic spat with Russia over the Syrian civil war will not impact or affect the purchase and delivery of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system.

Cavusoglu made the comments on Saturday following his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The two men discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria’s north-west province of Idlib, in which Russia is backing the Syrian regime and bombarding the area.

“They’re two different issues,” Cavusoglu said. “We can’t change our principal stance, our policies, because of one disagreement with this country or that country. We shouldn’t let the Syrian problem undermine our cooperation and also our relations.”

Since the Syrian regime’s attacks on the civilians of Idlib started, and its killing of seven Turkish soldiers earlier this month, tensions have escalated between Ankara and Moscow. The Syrian regime has broken a de-escalation agreement struck in September 2018, in which Idlib was meant to become a safe zone guaranteed by the Turks and Russians.

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In its ongoing campaign to retake Idlib since April last year, the Syrian regime has made significant gains, especially with the support of Russian ground troops and Iranian forces. These have enabled it to retake around half of the province so far, including key towns and cities and the strategic M5 highway.

Due to these tensions, there was speculation that other factors related to bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey could be jeopardised, including the former’s delivery of its S-400 missile defence system.

The final parts of the second battery of Russian S-400 missile defense system arrive at Murted Airbase in Ankara, Turkey on 15 September 2019. [TURKISH NATIONAL DEFENSE MINISTRY / HANDOUT - Anadolu Agency]

The final parts of the second battery of Russian S-400 missile defense system arrive at Murted Airbase in Ankara, Turkey on 15 September 2019. [TURKISH NATIONAL DEFENSE MINISTRY / HANDOUT – Anadolu Agency]

The Turkish Republic’s purchase of the system has long been subject to controversy due the security risks it could reportedly pose to NATO’s defence structure –Turkey is a key member of the alliance – as well as the growing links between Turkey and Russia away from the sphere of the US and Western powers.

There have even been calls by US senators to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of the defence system, but Turkey has stood firm in its decision, saying that the S-400 will not be integrated into NATO’s own system.

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