Turkish PM defends seeking China arms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:21am


The Turkish prime minister yesterday defended a controversial decision to enter talks with China to buy Turkey's first long-range anti-missile system, but said no deal had yet been finalised.

Ankara's announcement last month that it was launching discussions with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export for the deal - worth US$4 billion, according to Turkish media - irritated Turkey's allies in Nato, particularly the United States.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists that "for the moment, China is offering the best conditions" - including meeting Turkey's demand to produce the missiles jointly.

He said talks are continuing between Turkish and Chinese authorities and he would make a "final decision" together with his defence minister and army chief of staff.

He did not give a date for the decision. The US said it had "serious concerns" about its key regional ally's decision to go with China Precision, and Nato - of which Turkey is a member - said it wanted a say in the final decision because the alliance's missile systems must be compatible with each other.

Erdogan, dismissed Nato's concern, saying its member countries routinely had Russian arms in their inventories.