Turkey to acquire Russian S-400s by 2019: Minister

The country's top civilian chief of defense once again put the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria on the target board for an imminent invasion.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Ankara hopes to receive its first delivery of S-400 air missile defense systems from Russia by 2019, the Turkish Defense Minister revealed on Wednesday despite concerns by its NATO allies.

“The contract has been signed and payment in advance has been transferred to acquire the Russian Federation’s S-400 systems which have become a matter of emergency. The deal is done,” said Minister Nurettin Canikli.

Canikli said his country had a second optional delivery of the surface-to-air missiles, according to Kurdistan 24’s Turkish language service.

“Once we get these systems, our country will have procured an important air defense capability,” he told a parliamentary commission on the 2018 budget.

Ankara’s pursuit of developing its weapons, air, and ground defense systems would not be stalled by Moscow’s offer, he added.

“We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400,”  Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael told CNBC in September.

“A NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Michael said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent rapprochement with Moscow comes amid ever-escalating tensions with the US and European countries which he accuses of supporting and harboring his domestic opponents, namely the Kurds and one-time ally Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement.

Separately, on the war-stricken Syria, Canikli designated any place where US-backed Kurdish forces have a presence as a target.

The isolated Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria, he said, was a threat and had to be “cleared” of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that maintain ties with both Washington and Moscow as a partner in the war on the Islamic State (IS).

Ankara has been courting Russia, one of the Syrian regime’s two primary military backers along with Iran, for a green light to initiate an invasion of the self-declared Kurdish autonomous region.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany