ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not ruled out buying Russian fighters instead of the US F-35s.
After looking closely at Russian planes, Erdogan said he was considering buying them, according to Turkish broadcaster NTV.
“Why not? As soon as we have the final US decision [on the F-35] we will take the appropriate steps,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists.
The Turkish president attended the opening of the international aerospace salon MAKS-2019 in Russia and showed interest in the Su-35 and Su-57 fighters, addressing the issue together with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey considered buying Russian fighters after the US excluded Ankara from its new F-35 fighter production program.
Washington withdrew Ankara from the program in retaliation for the acquisition of advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems.
Meanwhile Turkey will not allow the United States to stop the process of establishing a security zone east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, according to Erdogan.
“The agreement on the safe zone and cleansing east of the Euphrates with the United States is a right decision. A coordinating center has been set up and joint patrols will begin soon. But we will not be able to prolong the [safe zone creation] process,” as with Manbij. “It should go fast,” Erdogan told reporters aboard his plane as he returned from Russia to Turkey, as quoted by NTV.
According to Erdogan, Ankara will not allow Syria to be transformed into a region where Kurdish terrorist groups can enjoy protection.
“Now everything is ready along our border. Everything is already there, personnel and armored equipment. We are ready to act at any moment. There are no problems for us there,” he claimed.
On the situation in Manbij, where the United States and Turkey had operated under a joint roadmap to remove Kurdish groups, Erdogan insisted that the Kurds “supposedly left, but no one is leaving; their numbers have declined slightly at best.”
Last Monday, the Turkish president said his military would soon enter the safe zone in northern Syria.
The statement by the head of state followed an agreement reached by Ankara and Washington on August 7, providing for the creation of a safe zone along Syria’s border with Turkey and the establishment of a joint US-Turkey operations center to coordinate the efforts.