US Vice President Mike Pence made an abortive appeal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, asking him to renege on a missile deal with Russia in favor of an American system, according to a report in the Middle East Eye, a London-based online news outlet.
In a telephone call last week Pence asked Erdoğan to cancel Turkey’s agreement with Moscow to purchase a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which has heightened tensions between the two NATO allies.
Pence, a former member of the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans, relayed President Donald Trump’s greetings to Erdoğan and asked him to drop the S-400 sale, according to two Turkish sources with knowledge of the call.
The request stems from the fact that the Trump administration is mandated to sanction countries that conduct transactions with the Russian military industry, according to a law passed by the US Congress in 2017, called CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
Even though Turkey inked the deal with Moscow well before the actual purchase, US diplomats have said it is still subject to sanctions.
Pence, during the phone call with Erdoğan, stressed that an alternative deal with Washington that would see Turkey purchase Patriot missiles instead of S-400s was still on the table, according to the sources.
Erdoğan, in return, said Ankara’s deal with Moscow was at a point of no return and that the Patriots didn’t meet all three criteria Turkey needed: timely delivery, joint production and technology transfer.
Pence said Washington could expedite the delivery but couldn’t make a promise on other subjects, the sources said.
Turkish officials declined to comment on the report, and US officials didn’t respond to a number of inquiries. Neither the Turkish presidency nor the White House National Security Council released readouts of the phone call.