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Erdogan Hints at Readiness to Resolve Missile Row With Trump

Selcan Hacaoglu

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he’s ready to buy American Patriot missiles if the terms are right, and will discuss the issue with Donald Trump next week.

Turkey’s testy relations with NATO ally the U.S. have been strained by Ankara’s purchase earlier this year of a Russian-made missile defense system. That resulted in Turkey being suspended from the joint program that produces the advanced F-35 fighter jet.

“We bought the S-400, that job is done, but if the U.S. will give us the Patriots, then we can buy them as long as the conditions are suitable,” Erdogan said during a visit to Hungary. “We’ve proposed this to them.”

The president brought up the potential deal less than a week before he’s due to meet Trump at the White House on Nov. 13. The U.S. has threatened economic and other sanctions against Turkey if it activates the Russian missiles, which Washington says could pose a threat to the security of the F-35 warplanes.

While his comments Thursday suggest Erdogan’s looking for ways to defuse tensions with Washington, he made no mention of the U.S. demand that Turkey not make the Russian missiles operable.

Erdogan has sought to hinder momentum for sanctions by appealing directly to Trump, an approach that delivered for him when the U.S. president early last month ordered American troops deployed in northern Syria to stand aside from a Turkish military operation.

Trump Says Turkey Won’t Get F-35s Over Russian Missile System

The U.S. has sought to sell Ankara the Patriot air-defense missile since at least 2013, but Erdogan insisted that it come with a transfer of technology so that Turkey could develop and build its own batteries. The Obama administration declined. Erdogan has since said Turkey’s defense needs required him to buy the Russian-made S-400.

Turkey’s planned purchase of 100 F-35s built by Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s costliest weapons program, made it one of the plane’s top four foreign customers, along with Japan, Australia and the U.K.

Ten Turkish companies are expected to be suspended from making more than 900 parts for the F-35 that over the program’s lifetime could generate more than $9 billion in orders. Turkey’s first two jets were to have been delivered later this year.

The U.S. has long said Turkey’s decision to buy Russian equipment is incompatible with its role in NATO. Ankara says it may have to consider Russian warplanes if it can’t receive the F-35s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Onur Ant at oant@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Stuart Biggs

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