ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey would be open to new offers for a missile defence system if a deal agreed with a Chinese firm under United States sanctions falls through, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted 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, United States 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 Mr 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 Mr Erdogan had made the comments.
The US ambassador to Turkey said on Thursday Washington was concerned that the $3.4 billion (S$4.2 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 alliance.
Turkey announced in September it had chosen the FD-2000 missile defence system CPMIEC over rival systems from Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and US 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 mind.
CPMIEC is under US sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.