Erdogan Hails Delivery of S-400 System to Turkey
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed on Monday Russia’s delivery of the S-400 missile defense system despite repeated US calls on Turkey to cancel the deal or face sanctions.
"We have begun to receive our S-400s. Some said, 'they cannot buy them'... God willing the final part of this (delivery) will be in April 2020," Erdogan told a crowd of several thousand in Ankara as Turkey marked the third anniversary of a bloody coup attempt.
The anniversary comes at a difficult moment for Erdogan. He faces a weakened economy, worsening relations with NATO ally the United States over the S-400 purchase, and a humiliating loss for his party in the recent Istanbul local election.
In 2016, nearly 250 people were killed -- excluding the coup-plotters -- and more than 2,000 injured after a rogue military faction tried to wrest power from the president. Thousands took to the streets in response to Erdogan's call to defeat the uprising.
Relations with the West deteriorated after the coup bid, as Turkish officials accused the West of not giving Ankara sufficient support.
Erdogan said Turkey's "next target was joint production with Russia" of the next missile defense system.
"We are taking every measure to make sure our people do not suffer the betrayal of 15 July again or something similar," he added.
“The S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country. God willing, we are doing this as a joint investment with Russia, and will continue to do so.”
US officials have said that in addition to being hit with legislation aimed at preventing countries from purchasing military equipment from Russia, known as CAATSA, Turkey could be thrown off the F-35 stealth fighter jet program.
That would mean it would no longer make F-35 parts or be able to buy the jets it has ordered.
On Sunday, Erdogan said that US President Donald Trump has the authority to waive sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the defense systems and should find a “middle ground” in the dispute.
Late Monday, he traveled to Istanbul to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the failed coup, where he insisted on the importance of commemorating the putsch attempt to prevent "greater evils".
Ankara accuses former ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, a cleric exiled in the US, of having ordered the attempted coup. He lists his movement as a "terrorist" organization.
Some 8,000 military personnel took part in the bid to overthrow Erdogan, backed by 35 fighter jets, three boats, 37 helicopters and 74 tanks, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Since 2016, tens of thousands of people have been detained while 150,000 public sector employees have been suspended or sacked over alleged links to Gulen.
Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter that Turkey "sends a powerful message of unity and solidarity to the world: We will die but never let traitors and putschists destroy our country, our freedom and our dignity."
The day, known as "15 July" in Turkey, has become a national holiday.
Anadolu reported Sunday that 110 suspected Gulen movement members have been extradited to Turkey from more than 20 countries.
Hundreds of life sentences have been handed down against accused putschists.
There are still almost daily police raids to capture suspects accused of ties to Gulen.
Based in Pennsylvania, Gulen strongly denies Ankara's claims.