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High tech standoff

The first shipment of a Russian missile defence system has arrived in Turkey, the Turkish Defence Ministry said Friday, moving the country closer to possible U.S. sanctions and a new standoff with Washington.

A Defence Ministry statement said "the first group of equipment" of the S-400 air defence systems has reached the Murted Air Base near the capital, Ankara. The delivery of parts of the system will continue in the coming days and authorities will decide "how it will be used" once the system is made operational, Turkey's defence industry authority said in a statement.

The U.S. has strongly urged NATO member Turkey to pull back from the deal — reportedly costing more than $2 billion — warning the country that it will face economic sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if it goes ahead with the purchase. It has also said Turkey won't be allowed to participate in the program to produce high-tech F-35 fighter jets.

Although U.S. President Donald Trump expressed sympathy toward Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian system during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in Japan, Washington has repeatedly said that the Russian system is incompatible with NATO systems and is a threat to the F-35.

Sanctions would mark a new low in the already-tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a Turkish currency crisis.

The deal with Russia — the first such deal between Russia and a NATO member — has also raised concerns that Turkey is drifting closer to Moscow's sphere of influence.

Turkey has refused to bow to U.S. pressure, insisting that choosing which defence equipment to purchase is a matter of national sovereignty.

"We've always said regarding the S400s that it's an agreement that has been finalized and the process continues to progress," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters. "There's no problem and the process will continue in a healthy way going forward."

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "Everything is going strictly in compliance with the agreements and contracts signed." He would not comment on a timeframe for the delivery but insisted that both parties are committed to complying with the contract.



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