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Trump to table new Patriot missile offer to Turkey: Turkish officials

US president said to have asked Erdogan if he was still interested in missiles, despite arrival of rival Russian system
'Trump said if Turkey does not unpack the S-400s and purchases the Patriots, then Ankara could continue to operate F-35s,' a Turkish official told MEE (Reuters)
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US President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart last week that Washington was ready to make a new offer over its Patriot missile system to end a crisis over Ankara's purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, according to multiple Turkish officials who spoke to Middle East Eye.

In a phone call last Thursday, Trump asked Recep Tayyip Erdogan whether he was still interested in purchasing the Patriots, even though Turkey has begun to receive the S-400 system, the sources said.

“Trump said if Turkey does not unpack the S-400s and purchases the Patriots, then Ankara could continue to operate F-35s and still produce parts of the plane,” a Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to diplomatic protocol, told MEE.

'It’s not both. It’s not park one in the garage and roll the other one out. It’s one or the other'

- US Defense Secretary Mark Esper

Even though Turkey has already paid more than $1bn for the F-35 fighter jets, the Pentagon earlier this summer decided to suspend Ankara from its F-35 programme, saying the delivery of the S-400s would put the plane's crucial technology at risk.

Turkish companies taking part in the programme currently produce more than 900 components of the fighter jets and were set to make $9bn over the course of their participation.

US officials had repeatedly warned in the past that Turkey would not be able to receive the F-35s if it bought the S-400s.

“We have consistently told Turkey that our latest offer of Patriots would be withdrawn if it took delivery of the S-400 system. Our Patriot offer has expired,” a US State Department spokesman told MEE this week.

However, Trump's latest remarks to Erdogan suggest that Washington could bring a new offer forward.

'We expect them to get us something soon'

Trump’s offer appears to contradicts remarks by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said last week that Turkey cannot purchase both systems.

“It’s either the F-35 or the S-400,” he said. “It’s not both. It’s not park one in the garage and roll the other one out. It’s one or the other. So we are where we are, and it’s regrettable.”

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In a televised statement on Wednesday, Erdogan acknowledged on the record that Trump had made a new offer over the Patriots.

“I told him that we want to have exactly the same [sale] conditions with the Russian offer. We will come together on the sidelines of the UN meetings and hold further discussions,” the Turkish president said.

Turkish officials say Erdogan asked for a credit, technological transfer and quick delivery of the Patriot system from Trump, but didn’t make any promise over not activating the S-400s.

“We haven’t received a written offer yet. But we expect them to get us something soon,” an official said.

The White House and the Pentagon didn't respond to MEE's inquiries about any new offer. 

'You must sanction Turkey'

Trump is already facing resistance from Congressional leaders over Turkey’s S-400 purchase, which is sanctionable under US law.

The US president met Republican senators last July and asked them to give him room for further negotiations with Turkey before invoking any sanctions against Ankara.

“President Trump, you must sanction Turkey over its purchase of the S-400 air defence system, as required by US law. Turkey’s interests are best served by partnership with the US, not the Kremlin,” the US House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a tweet last month.