US-Turkey mull joint working group to discuss S-400 sanctions, Turkish FM says

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey and the United States are considering the formation of a joint working group to discuss US sanctions imposed due to Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system, Reuters reported.

On December 14 Washington imposed the sanctions on NATO-ally Turkey’s military procurement agency as punishment for its purchase of the Russian-made missile defense system.

Turkey’s Presidency of the Defense Industry (SSB), its chief İsmail Demir and three other officials were targeted by the sanctions, which include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to SSB as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on Demir and the other individuals.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had indicated interest in setting up a joint working group over the sanctions, Çavuşoğlu said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“In our meeting with Pompeo, we said our proposal still stands, and the Americans said let’s work together on this issue. There are talks right now, but the joint working group has not yet been set up,” Çavuşoğlu said.

The sanctions come at a delicate moment in the fraught relationship between Ankara and Washington as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will take office on January 20, replacing Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Ankara had previously proposed a working group to assess the potential impact of the S-400s on NATO systems, a suggestion initially rejected by Washington.

Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey rejects this and says the S-400s will not be integrated into NATO.

Çavuşoğlu also said on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to take steps to improve ties with the United States, expressing hope that the incoming Biden administration would do the same.

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