July 12, 2019 / 3:53 PM / 5 months ago

Pentagon chief to speak with Turkish counterpart, position on F-35 unchanged

FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper waits to greet Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that the United States had not changed its position on Turkey’s role in the F-35 program if they accepted a Russian missile defense system and he would be speaking with his Turkish counterpart later in the day.

Esper had personally told Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Brussels on June 26 that Turkey could not have both the S-400 and the F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets.

“We are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400, our position regarding the F-35 has not changed and I will speak with my Turkish counterpart Minister Akar this afternoon,” Esper said at the Pentagon.

“There will be more to follow after that conversation,” Esper said.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

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