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US threatens Turkey with sanctions

June 27, 2019

The US has urged Turkey to drop a Russian military hardware deal, saying it undermines their relationship. Turkey's president has refused to back down, saying he doubts NATO allies would impose sanctions on each other.

Soldiers stand in front of an S-400 aerial missile defense system
Image: picture-alliance/AA/S. Karacan

Turkey will be sanctioned if it goes forward with the purchase of Russia's S-400 missile system, acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Wednesday following a NATO defense ministerial.

"Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and ally for many, many years," Esper said. "The pursuit of the S-400 undermines that."

For months, US officials have urged Turkey to scrap its deal to acquire the Russian-made aerial missile defense system and buy the American-made Patriot system. Esper said Turkey would be dropped from the F-35 fighter jet program if it went ahead with the deal.

Turkey has refused to bow down to US pressure, saying the deal for the S-400s has been completed. Deliveries are expected in July.

Read more: Is NATO's future at risk over US-Turkey rift?

'Imposing sanctions on each other'

Before leaving to Japan for a G20 summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan warned Washington against imposing sanctions on a fellow NATO ally.

"If NATO allies are now imposing sanctions on each other, I don't know anything about that," Erdogan said. "These are not impressions I got from the talks I have had with Mr. Trump until now." 

Erdogan is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump on Saturday. The acquisition of Russian-made military hardware is likely to be a contentious subject for the two.

Read more: Opinion: Erdogan's ego trip buying Russian arms

Russian S-400 long-range air defense missile systems deployed at Hemeimeem air base in Syria
Russia has deployed the S-400 system in Syria, with observers describing it as one of the most successful missile defense systems on the planetImage: picture-alliance/AP Images/V. Savitsky

Controversial moves

Over the past year, Turkey has sought to boost ties with Russia, including in the area of defense.

In May, Erdogan announced that Turkey and Russia would develop Moscow's next generation missile defense system, the S-500.

The US has halted deliveries of F-35-related equipment over Turkey's refusal to drop the S-400 deal. The White House has given Turkey until July 31 to withdraw from the deal.

Read more: Russia encroaches on US war industry in Middle East

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ls/se (AP, AFP)