Key US senator says Turkey will be sanctioned if it installs Russian S-400s

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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Sate, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a hearing. Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP

If Turkey installs the Russian missile system it is expected to take delivery of this month, it will be sanctioned as required by US law and unable to receive US F-35 fighter jets, US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, contradicting the US president’s reported position, the Ahval news website reported.

Appearing on “Face the Nation,” Graham was asked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement that US President Donald Trump had made assurances that Turkey would not face sanctions for receiving and activating a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which is said to be incompatible with NATO systems.

“It’s impossible … if Turkey … activates the S-400 missile battery they bought from the Russians, sanctions would be required under law,” Graham said, referring to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed in 2017.

Graham, a close ally of Trump, pointed out that the US Senate passed legislation last week banning the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to Turkey if it installed the Russian system. “There’s no way we’re going to transfer to Turkey the F-35 technology and let them buy a Russian missile battery at the same time. It would compromise our platform,” he told Margaret Brennan, host of the CBS news program.

Speaking to journalists in Japan on Saturday during the G-20 summit, Erdoğan told reporters that Trump supported Turkey on the S-400 and F-35 issues.

“He made it clear in front of the press that they are looking for different options when it comes to the sanctions,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey had already paid $1.4 billion for an expected 116 F-35 fighter jets.

Turkey’s president expected S-400 delivery to begin as soon as this week. “Within a week, maximum in 10 days, the first series [of S-400 missiles] will be delivered,” said Erdoğan. “I’ve made this clear to Trump myself and Putin also said this to him.”

On Saturday Trump said the US had treated Turkey unfairly in the past and that the allies now faced a complicated situation over Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400 but did not express any decision regarding sanctions. Graham said Turkey is a key NATO ally and hoped to find a way to solve the dilemma.

“I don’t want a conflict with Turkey. They’re a very important ally, particularly when it comes to Syria and the region. But under our law, there is no discretion,” he said.

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