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Turkey Signals Delay in Russia Missile Order Opposed by U.S......

Turkey’s most senior military official said there could be a delay in the delivery of a Russian missile-defense system that threatens to exacerbate tensions between Ankara and the Trump administration.
“It may not happen in June but it will come in the upcoming months,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Haberturk television late Monday. “The process has started.”
The delivery of the S-400 missile batteries was originally scheduled for July until Russia offered to bring it forward by one month, according to Turkey. Turkish officials last week said they were working with Washington to determine a date for a possible visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, probably in July.
A top government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday that there was no change to the previously agreed timeline for the missiles, without elaborating. Turkish stocks rose 2.1% at 3:19 p.m. in Istanbul, while the lira strengthened 0.4%.
Akar didn’t say whether the delay he expected was due to technical reasons or aimed at postponing a run-in with the U.S. He said Turkey would complete its evaluation of the latest U.S. proposal to sell its Patriot air-defense system by October or November.
The U.S. earlier this month asked Ankara to delay delivery of the system to 2020 but Turkish officials led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have vowed to push ahead despite a high risk of U.S. sanctions that could plunge the country into renewed economic turmoil.
Turkey is seeking an air-defense edge over its Middle Eastern neighbors and is thinking long term, said Mesut Hakki Casin, an analyst at Istanbul’s Istinye University.
“There may be some delay due to technical or political reasons,” Casin said Tuesday. “But whether it happens in June or July, these are issues that can be accommodated within the strategic concept.”
Nihat Ali Ozcan, a strategist at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, said the military may need three to four months to train personnel in Russia on how to operate the missiles.
The U.S. says the missiles could collect intelligence on the stealth capabilities of the next generation F-35 warplanes and has threatened sanctions against Turkey. It’s also warned that Turkey could be expelled from the fighter jet’s development program.
When the U.S. last sanctioned some members of the Turkish government, over the arrest of an American preacher, it amplified problems already haunting the nation’s economy. An ensuing collapse in the value of the currency hastened the country’s first recession in a decade.
The U.S. balked for years at selling Patriots to Turkey and sharing its technology. In December, the State Department notified Congress that it had proposed allowing the sale, a gambit seemingly designed to get Erdogan to scrap the S-400 deal.
Akar wouldn’t comment on speculation that Turkey could purchase Russia’s fifth-generation Su-57 warplane instead.