A high-ranking Turkish official stated that Turkey's plans to operate its new Russian-made missile defense systems were postponed due to the outbreak of the Corona virus, while Washington continues to declare its strong opposition to Ankara's acquisition of the "S-400" system.
Reuters quoted the Turkish official - who requested anonymity - that there is no return to the decision to operate the "S-400", but due to the new Corona virus, the equipment plan that was scheduled for this April will be postponed.
He added that it may take several months before the Russian system is activated, noting that some technical problems have yet to be overcome.
Thus, it seems that Ankara does not intend to reverse its decision in this regard, which was a reason for the United States threatening to impose sanctions on it.
It seemed that the tension between Turkey and the United States, the two members of NATO, would reach a crisis point due to the "S-400" air defense system, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government announced their intention to activate this system.
But the outbreak of the Corona virus has made the focus of Turkish efforts on fighting the epidemic and fortifying the economy, which has just emerged from recession last year.
Over the past weeks, Erdogan and his government have not raised the S-400 issue in public.
On the other hand, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Washington had not changed its position.
"We continue to strongly oppose Turkey's purchase of the S-400 air defense system, and we are extremely concerned about reports that Turkey is continuing its efforts to operate it," she added, in a statement sent to Reuters.
The United States says the S-400 systems are inconsistent with NATO's defenses, and will jeopardize the US F-35 fighters that Ankara intends to purchase.
Ortagus said, "At the highest levels, we continue to emphasize that the S-400 deal is subject to discussions in light of the Confronting America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (KATSA), and it remains a major obstacle to bilateral relations and in NATO ... We are confident that President Erdogan and his senior officials understand our position." .
The Turkish presidency did not mention the "S-400" system in a statement it issued after a phone call between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.
The statement said that the call focused on cooperation to protect health and the economy from the repercussions of the Coronavirus outbreak.
A new crisis
A new crisis
The senior advisor at the US State Department, Richard Aotzen, said in a webinar a few days ago, that the deployment of the "S-400" system in the same airspace for American planes would be a "big problem" that might spark a new crisis between the two countries.
The Turkish Air Force owns US-made F-16s, and it was scheduled to receive the new F-35s, before Washington excluded Ankara from the program of these fighters because of its contract to buy the Russian defense system.
Aotzen said that the issue "is not up for discussion now because of Covid, but before the disease dominated the debate, the thinking in Washington was that the Turks would operate this system (S-400) probably in April, and that Congress would move to impose sanctions ... I don't think None of that has faded. "
Analysts say the delay in deploying the S-400 system gives Ankara more time to consider its next step.
The recent consensus between US and Turkish interests in Syria and the economic impact of the virus crisis may have an impact on this issue.