Turkey Demands U.S. Deliver Fighter Jets or Return $1.4 Billion Payment for Them

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the U.S. deliver F-35 fighter jets to Turkey or refund the $1.4 billion payment made for them, the Associated Press reported.

The order came after Turkey's recent removal from an international stealth fighter jet program headed by the U.S., which ousted the country after it inked a deal with Russia to acquire S-400 advanced missile defense systems.

Following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan told reporters on a returning flight Wednesday that there was no "turning back" from Turkey's deal with Russia. The Turkish president said that he might demand the jets when he meets with President Joe Biden during October's Group of 20 gathering in Rome, AP reported.

Erdogan said he also could broach the subject of having the jets turned over or receiving repayment with U.S. leaders on the sidelines of an upcoming November climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

"We made a $1.4 billion payment. What will become of that?" Erdogan said. "We did not—and do not—earn this money easily. Either they will give us our planes or they will give us the money."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Turkey Demands Fighter Jets From U.S.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the U.S. deliver F-35 fighter jets or refund a $1.4 billion payment. Above, Erdogan listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on September 29, 2021. Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Asked about Turkey's plans to purchase additional S-400 systems despite threats of further U.S. sanctions, Erdogan responded: "The S-400 process continues. There is no turning back." His comments were reported by the private Turkish news channel NTV and other media.

Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and its defense officials were sanctioned after the country bought the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system two years ago. The U.S. strongly objects to NATO members using the Russian system, saying it poses a security threat to the F-35s.

Turkey maintains the S-400's components could be used independently without being integrated into NATO systems and therefore pose no risk.

The U.S. also sanctioned Turkey for its purchase under a 2017 law aimed at pushing back Russian influence. The move was the first time that the law, known as CAATSA, was used to penalize a U.S. ally.

Erdogan's talks with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi focused on steps that would deepen defense cooperation between Turkey and Russia, including partnerships for aircraft engines, fighter jets and submarines, the Turkish leader said.

Russia also could be involved in the construction of Turkey's second and third nuclear power plants, and of a space launch platform, he said.

Erdogan traveled to Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria, where Turkey and Russia back opposing sides in the conflict. Russia is the main ally of the Syrian government, while Turkey supports groups that have fought to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Russian and Turkish troops have, however, cooperated in Syria's northwestern Idlib province—the final holdout of rebel forces—and in seeking a political solution in the country.

Erdogan said he and Putin agreed to continue to work together toward restoring calm in Idlib.

Erdogan Meets With Putin
Following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on a flight Wednesday that there was no “turning back” from Turkey’s deal with Russia to acquire S-400 advanced missile defense systems. Above, Putin and Erdogan speak at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images