Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says nuclear-armed states cannot forbid Ankara from acquiring nuclear weapons, amid a row with the US over Ankara’s purchase of Russian military hardware.
“Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he said in a speech in Turkey’s central province of Sivas on Wednesday.
Erdogan also argued that there is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t possess nuclear weapons.
He further added that Israel is using its nuclear arms to threaten others.
“We have Israel nearby, as almost neighbors. They scare (other nations) by possessing these. No one can touch them,” he said.
Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but its policy is to neither confirm nor deny that it has atomic bombs.
The Tel Aviv regime is estimated to have 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal. The occupying regime has refused to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Turkey, however, is a signatory to the Treaty on the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which are aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons.
Erdogan referred to a former president who once told the visiting Turkish leader about his country’s intention to have a larger nuclear stockpile than those of the US and Russia, without naming him.
“We have about 7,500 nuclear warheads. Russia and the US have about 12,000-15,000 missiles. We will build more as well,” Erdogan quoted the ex-president as saying.
The remarks come at a time when Turkey is in a row with the US over the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
Washington recently excluded Ankara from its F-35 stealth fighter jet program.
Erdogan has suggested that his country could look to Russia for an alternative after its F-35 exclusion.
Turkey maintains that it needs air defense systems to meet security threats, mainly emanating from the conflict in neighboring Syria.