Turkey Signs Accord With France, Italy for Missile System

Story Highlights

  • Turkey seeks to assuage NATO allies
  • After Russian S-400s, Turkey eyes for European system
  • NATO chief welcomed the deal for missile cooperation

Turkey has reached an accord with a French-Italian consortium to address the needs of the Turkish military in a bid to beef up its missile system and advance cooperation between three countries.

NATO members on Wednesday signed a letter of opening the way to Ankara buying air defense system from the French-Italian consortium, a new development that raises questions over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400s missiles.

In September, Turkey finalized its deal with Russia after months of wrangling over the terms of the procurement of Russian system, to the chagrin and opposition of its NATO allies. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even said a preliminary payment was delivered to Moscow for the purchase, which drove a wedge between Turkey and its Western allies.

Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli was in Brussels as part of a NATO meeting and signed the letter on behalf of Turkey in a separate meeting with his French and Italian counterparts.

The letter allows the Eurosam consortium, the producer of SAMP/T and Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missile systems, to “analyze and define the needs of the Turkish military,” a French defense source told AFP.

As part of the accord, Eurosam and Turkish defense companies will examine a system based on SAMP-T and hammer out the common needs and points for cooperation between the three countries.

The deal yet appears to be in its initial steps and what would be the ultimate shape is currently hard to fathom. Still, it animated a dispirited NATO community, prompting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to embrace and welcome the deal as a strong sign of cooperation between allies.

“We welcome always when NATO allies working together to develop different capabilities,” NATO chief said.

“This kind of operation is the best way to make sure we have the capabilities different nations need and it’s a good way also to make sure that when we have new capabilities they can be fully integrated into air defense systems,” Mr. Stoltenberg said according to AFP.

The letter signed on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels allows the three countries to “show their interest in cooperating in the domain of anti-aircraft defense and surface-to-air missiles”, the French source said.

Eurosam air defense systems are already used by the French and Italian militaries and Rome even deployed some for a time in Turkey to help intercept missiles fired from Syria.

Turkey’s intent to buy Russian system produced technical problems as S-400s are not interoperable with NATO systems. Last month, President Erdogan also revealed Turkey’s desire to procure French-Italian system in addition to S-400s to boost the country’s air defense system in a region buffeted by constant upheavals and regional conflicts.

Early in October, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey may annul the purchase of Russian system if Moscow refuses technology transfer and joint production.

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