Turkey's Erdogan says to discuss defense cooperation in France

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said he would discuss defense cooperation with NATO ally France during his visit to Paris on Friday, highlighting an “important” step which Turkey would be taking with the Franco-Italian EUROSAM defense consortium.

He did not specify what the step would be, but in November, Turkey signed a letter of intent with France and Italy on cooperation in joint defense projects and Turkish defense ministry sources said at the time it was looking into a missile system based on EUROSAM’s SAMP-T system.

The comments come a week after Ankara signed an accord for Russia to supply Turkey with S-400 missile batteries - a move which has worried the West because they cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture.

“We are ready to further our cooperation with France in every area, including defense industry,” Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul before departing for Paris where he will meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

“The step we will be taking as France, Turkey and Italy on EUROSAM is important, and we will discuss it again today,” he said.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli had said in late November it aimed to finalize the EUROSAM deal by the end of 2017 at the latest.

Erdogan also told the news conference he would discuss with Macron subjects such as the status of Jerusalem, Iraq and Libya, as well as the latest developments on the divided island of Cyprus and European Union-related issues.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Alison Williams