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Influential US senator says he is trying to get Turkey back in F-35 program: report

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US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he would like to get NATO ally Turkey back in a joint manufacturing program for F-35 fighter jets, from which it was expelled in July, Reuters reported.

“We’re trying to get them back in the F-35 program,” Graham, a close ally of US President Donald Trump, said in New York, according to a video posted on Twitter and reports in Turkish media.

Ankara and Washington have clashed over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defenses, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and pose a threat to Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth jets.

Washington removed Turkey from the joint F-35 program after Turkey accepted delivery of S-400 equipment in July. Ankara also aimed to purchase some of the jets but now says it could look elsewhere.

Turkish media outlets said Graham met Erdoğan in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.

In the video, Graham said he and Erdoğan discussed a possible free trade agreement. “Turkey is a very important ally, not just when it comes to Syria but for the whole region,” he told reporters.

Erdoğan is scheduled to meet with Trump in New York this week.

In an interview earlier this month, Erdoğan told Reuters he would discuss with Trump buying US Patriot missile defenses, adding his personal bond with the US leader could overcome a crisis caused by the S-400 purchase.

The state-owned Anadolu news agency reported that Trump and Erdoğan held a phone call on Sunday in which they discussed bilateral relations and regional issues.

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