The United States has offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile defense system if Ankara promises not to operate a rival Russian system, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, in what he called a significant softening in Washington’s position.
Two Turkish officials told Reuters that Turkey was evaluating the U.S. offer but that Ankara had not changed its plans for the Russian S-400 systems, which it has said it will start to activate next month.
In Washington, the Pentagon said that U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had not changed his position on the issue, which was: Turkey is not going to receive a Patriot battery unless it returns the S-400.
NATO allies Turkey and the United States have been at odds over Ankaras purchase last year of the S-400s, which Washington says are incompatible with the alliances defense systems.
ANKARA- The United States has offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile defence system if Ankara promises not to operate a rival Russian system, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, in what he called a significant softening in Washington's position.
— British Herald (@BritishHeraldUK) March 11, 2020
After heavy fighting in northwestern Syria’s Idlib region this year Turkey asked Washington to deploy Patriots along its border with Syria for protection but the United States said Turkey cannot have both the S-400s and the Patriots.
Speaking to reporters on his return flight from Brussels, Erdogan said Ankara had told Washington to deploy Patriot systems to Turkey and that it was ready to purchase the systems from the United States as well.
We made this offer to the United States on the Patriot: If you are going to give us Patriots, then do it. We can also buy Patriots from you, he said.
US should give Patriots missiles to Ankara
An American foreign policy expert on Tuesday urged the U.S. to provide patriots to Turkey amid escalation in Idlib, Syria.
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute think tank, welcomed U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey’s efforts to send additional military equipment to help Turkey fight Russian-backed Syrian government forces, by retweeting a report on the Politico news website, in which four anonymous sources familiar with the matter said Jeffrey is lobbying the Pentagon to provide Turkey with additional military equipment to help Turkey fight Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
“Jeffrey is right. The job of the US — and NATO — is to counterbalance the Russians. Putin supports his ally, Assad, with troops on the ground,” Doran said in a tweet.
“Can we at least provide Patriots to Turkey?” he asked.
Doran, who specializes in the Middle East, shared a viral video Monday showing Assad regime soldiers moving in an ambulance in northwestern Syria to avoid Turkish drone strikes.
“Assad’s soldiers now move around in ambulances in order to camouflage themselves from the Turks, who have achieved total air superiority in Idlib,” he noted above the video. “We learn from this, obviously, that the Turks refrain from attacking ambulances.”
On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington is in talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about a request from Ankara for the deployment of the Patriot missile system on its southern border.
“We are speaking to President Erdogan a lot. We are talking to him about” the request, Trump told reporters at the White House.
Currently, Patriots from Spain are deployed in southern Adana province.
In recent weeks, Syrian regime forces stepped up attacks on Turkish troops in Idlib province.
Ankara on Sunday launched Operation Spring Shield after 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in Idlib, the last stronghold of opposition forces in Syria.
Syria has been mired in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.
Idlib, in northwestern Syria, is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
In recent months, nearly 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks by forces of the Assad regime and its allies.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression were expressly prohibited.
But since then, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in airstrikes and shelling by the regime and its allies.
GVS News Desk with inputs from Anadolu and other news agencies.