US politicians pressed the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, saying the failure to do so sends a “terrible signal”.
A key Senate committee is set to vote on additional legislation to punish Ankara this week.
“The time for patience has long expired. It is time you applied the law,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout US laws without consequence,” they said.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over NATO ally Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, which Washington says is not compatible with NATO defences and poses a threat to its F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Lockheed Martin Corp is developing.
Infuriating many members of Congress, Turkey shrugged off the threat of US sanctions and began receiving its first S-400 deliveries in July. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 programme.
US President Donald Trump‘s administration has held off on imposing sanctions despite Trump signing a sweeping sanctions law, known as CAATSA, in 2017. It mandates financial penalties for countries that do business with Russia‘s military.
US politicians’ anger towards Turkey deepened after Ankara crossed into Syria for an offensive against Kurdish fighters who had helped US forces combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.
Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the committee would vote next week on a separate bill to impose stiff sanctions on Ankara.
Normally ardent defenders of the fellow-Republican Trump, Graham and some other party members have been harshly critical of the president’s decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria, paving the way for the Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters.
Trump hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House for a meeting last month, which the US leader described as “wonderful”.
But there has been no sign that Erdogan has changed his plan to buy the Russian system.
Turkey’s presidential administration has said the purchase date for more S-400 missile systems from Russia is just a technicality, and it thinks a deal will happen before too long, the RIA news agency reported on Monday.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. Pompeo said on November 26 that Turkey carrying out tests on the Russian system was “concerning”, and talks to resolve the issue were still under way.
The same day, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport was cited as saying Moscow hoped to seal a deal to supply Turkey with more S-400 missile systems in the first half of 2020.