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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey signed a letter of intent with France and Italy on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation on joint defence projects including air and missile defence systems, Turkish defence ministry sources said.

As a first step, the Franco-Italian EUROSAM consortium and Turkish companies will look into a system based on the SAMP-T missile system produced by EUROSAM and determine the common needs of the three countries, the sources said.

NATO member Turkey says it plans to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, a decision which has been seen in some Western capitals as a snub to the alliance, given tensions with Moscow over Ukraine and Syria.

The Russian deal also raises concern because the weapons cannot be integrated into NATO defence.

But Turkey has at the same time been in talks with the EUROSAM consortium, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last month that Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan had told him that Ankara was discussing buying air defence systems from France and Italy in addition to the S-400s.

The defence ministry sources said Turkey, France and Italy would strengthen cooperation on joint production of military electronic systems, software and simulation systems and warfare equipments, as well as air and missile defence systems.

The letter of intent was signed in Brussels, where Turkey's Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli was attending a meeting of NATO defence ministers.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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