US Air Force halts Turkish F-35 pilot training amid Russian Federation dispute

Turkish F-35 pilots no longer flying at U.S. base- Pentagon

Tensions between the United States and Turkey have further escalated in recent months, with Ankara set to begin receiving potent and highly sophisticated Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems next month.

Washington says Ankara can not have both.

Turkish officials have told the daily Hurriyet newspaper that Turkey's stance on the S-400 missile defence deal with Russian Federation remains unchanged, with the remarks being made in response to a question about U.S. acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan's letter to Turkey which threatened the country could be removed from the US' F-35 training programme.

Earlier, acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, stating that Turkey's participation in the F-35 program will be effectively suspended as of July 31, unless Turkey changes its attitude.

"[The resolution] does not fit the deep-rooted alliance and friendship between the United States and Turkey", the ministry spokesperson Sami Aksoy said.

The US House of Representatives agreed on Monday on a resolution criticising Turkey's procurement of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and expressed concern over the Ankara and Washington alliance. That, the resolution said, would undermine the USA -led transatlantic defense alliance.

In response, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its foreign policy and judicial system were being maligned by "unfair" and "unfounded" allegations in the resolution.

President Tayyip Erdogan's government faces a balancing act in its ties with the West and Russian Federation, with which it has close energy ties and is also cooperating in neighbouring Syria.

The U.S. Air Force has stopped ongoing training Turkish pilots on the F-35 advanced fighter jets before an end date for "safety" concerns, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Reuters on Thursday reported a USA decision to stop accepting more Turkish pilots from entering the country for training, in what had been one of the most concrete signs that the dispute over the F-35 fighters was reaching a breaking point.

"We rarely see it in foreign affairs, but this is a black and white issue. There's no third option".

FILE PHOTO: People walk past Russian S-400 missile air defence systems before the military parade to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad in World War Two, in the city of Volgograd, Russia February 2, 2018.

In a letter to Hulusi Akar, the Turkish defence minister, acting USA defence secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote: "Turkey's procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation's ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that it was "out of the question" for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow and added that the United States had not "given us an offer as good as the S-400s" on the Patriot systems.



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