ANKARA Oct 25 Turkey would be open to new
offers for a missile defence system if a deal agreed with a
Chinese firm under U.S. sanctions falls through, Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan was quoted on Friday as saying.
The NATO member's decision to co-produce the long-range air
and missile defence system with China Precision Machinery Import
and Export Corp (CPMIEC) over rival bids from Russian, U.S. and
European firms has raised concern among Turkey's Western allies.
"Currently I don't know if there are different proposals
from the other parties. If there are they could be considered,"
the pro-government Bugun newspaper quoted Erdogan as telling a
reporter on his plane early on Thursday.
"Only if China pulls out of the negotiations will the
possibility of talks with the other sides emerge."
A senior Turkish official familiar with the matter confirmed
Erdogan had made the comments.
The U.S. ambassador to Turkey said on Thursday Washington
was concerned that the $3.4 billion deal with the Chinese firm
could undermine allied air defences and had begun "expert" talks
with Ankara to assess the potential impact.
NATO has also said it is worried about Turkey buying a
system not compatible with those of other member states,
potentially undermining a core principle of the 28-nation
Turkey announced in September it had chosen the FD-2000
missile defence system CPMIEC over rival systems from
Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and U.S. firm Raytheon Co,
though officials have since said the decision is not yet final.
Both Turkey and China have said Ankara's decision was made
on purely commercial grounds. Turkey has said CPMIEC offered the
most competitive terms and would enable production to be partly
based in Turkey, helping it achieve its long-standing goal of
strengthening its domestic defence industry.
Raytheon said on Thursday it was still ready to sell its
Patriot missile defence system to Turkey if Ankara changed its
CPMIEC is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran,
North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.