US could unblock F-35 deliveries to Turkey if Russia missile deal canceled, says congressional delegation: report

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AFP PHOTOS

A US congressional delegation signaled that if Turkey cancels the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, Washington could withdraw its block on the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, during a meeting on Monday with Turkish officials in Ankara, the NTV news agency reported.

Led by Michael Turner, a Republican congressman representing Ohio’s 10th district, the delegation met with officials from the Turkish foreign and defense ministries and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Osman Aşkın Bak, the former minister of youth and sports.

According to the report the US delegation conveyed a desire to mend the strained relationship between the two NATO allies, while the Turkish officials demanded a change in the negative attitude towards Turkey on the part of the US Congress.

The meeting also dealt with Turkey’s ongoing military operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, with the officials asking the US to better support Turkey in its efforts.

The Turkish government signed a contract to buy S-400s from a Russian defense contractor in 2017, a deal that was considered by the US and NATO to be a threat to the alliance.

While US politicians criticized Turkey over its purchase of the Russian air defense system, the US administration signed legislation that blocks the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.

The legislation also referred to the almost two-year imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey on terror-related charges. A court decision putting Brunson under house arrest instead of releasing him further strained relations between US and Turkey.

A Turkish delegation that met with officials in Washington on the Brunson issue in early August returned home empty-handed.

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