Ankara, Turkey – Turkey will propose only partially activating its Russian S-400s in negotiations with the United States, which sanctioned Turkey over the air defense systems late last year in December 2020, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

“We don’t have to use them constantly,” Akar said, nodding to Greece’s use of its Russian-made S-300s, which are predecessor missiles stationed on the island of Crete.

In December 2020, US sanctioned Turkey for acquiring the S-400s on grounds they threaten its F-35 fighter jets and are incompatible with shared NATO defenses. Turkey rejects this and says the systems will stand independently from NATO defenses.

Turkey has said it wants better ties and again proposed an S-400 joint working group. But US has repeatedly rejected that and says sanctions will remain until Turkey no longer possesses the missiles.

Akar said the S-400s did not have to remain active at all times but could rather operate as NATO member Greece uses its S-300s. ” This is what we said, whichever model is being used for the S-300s in Crete, we will open this to negotiations,” he said.

“We have said these talks could be held under the umbrella of NATO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said he viewed this issue positively,” he said. “These systems are used depending on the threat situation.”

The United States also removed Turkey from its F-35 program, in which Turkey was manufacturer and buyer, over the acquisition of the S-400s in mid-2019.

Turkey has said it had no other suitable defense option.

In a phone call last week that marked the first official contact between the allies since Biden took office, Turkish presidential adviser Ibrahim Kalin told US national security adviser Jake Sullivan the S-400 dispute needed a resolution.