Training of Turkish pilots on F-35 jets to continue, Pentagon says

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Mike Pence, the USA vice-president, warned Turkey last night that it was risking its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership with plans to buy a Russian air defence system in a row threatening to mar the alliance's 70th anniversary meeting.

While Vice President Mike Pence's speech at the #NATOEngages conference echoed President Donald Trump in his strong criticism of Germany, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as the host, hit a softer tone and did not single out Germany in his public remarks.

Turkey did clarify on Thursday what it found objectionable in the State Department read-out: the section on Syria, in which the U.S. appeared to threaten Turkey with military action.

"Turkey must choose", Pence said Wednesday.

Pompeo gave the warning to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu Wednesday in Washington during the first day of the two-day NATO Ministerial, State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

"I think the foreign ministers will leave Washington this week reassured of the underlying appreciation of the alliance, the underlying American commitment to the alliance", said Lute.

USA officials in recent days have slammed Germany over its defense spending. Stoltenberg said Germany was now making progress, but all allies needed to do more.

Putin has openly said that Moscow's decision to take over Crimea was partly motivated by NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe.

"If Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as President Trump said, it could turn Germany's economy into literally a captive of Russia", Pence told the event, held incongruously in a hip new music venue.

But on Tuesday the acting USA defense secretary, Pat Shanahan, predicted confidently that Turkey would reverse its decision to purchase an advanced Russian missile defense system.

He said that Cavusoglu's protest "comes across as a bit disingenuous", particularly in light of the Turkish threats.

Despite the U.S. suspension, Erdogan said three F-35 jets had been delivered, though they remain in the US.

Pence on Wednesday said Europe can not remain secure "if our allies become reliant on Russian Federation". "We began the four 30s initiative-which, by 2020, aims to ready 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 warships for deployment within 30 days".

The United States has already suspended all F-35 shipments to Turkey as a result of the conflict.

"The People's Alliance [the political bloc the ruling Justice and Development Party is part of] received 53.3 percent of the vote".

Pence called Turkey's decision to continue with the purchase even after the US offered to sell it the Patriot air defense system "deeply troubling".

"Turkey is a partner in the supply chain in the Joint Strike Fighter, so we not only have to look at whether we can transfer those assets to Turkey, but we also have to determine what role Turkey could play in the supply chain", Tillis said.

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