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US State Department denies forming joint group with Turkey to discuss S-400 sanctions

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The US State Department has denied reports suggesting that the US and Turkey are considering the establishment of a joint working group to discuss US sanctions imposed on Turkey due to Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system, according to a report in Al-Monitor on Wednesday.

On Wednesday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the two countries had started talks to form a joint working group and that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had shown interest in setting up the group.

“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 going on right now, although the joint working group has not yet been set up,” Cavusoğlu said.

However, a US State Department spokesperson told Al-Monitor in reference to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), “We understand that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has clarified the minister’s remarks. There is no working group regarding CAATSA sanctions or to ‘study’ the threat posed by the S-400 system to the F-35. There are routine working-level consultations regarding the impact of the sanctions on existing military-to-military cooperation.”

“We remain committed to the full implementation of sanctions as announced by Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo,” the spokesperson added.

The US sanctions, announced on Dec. 14, come at a delicate moment in the fraught relationship between Ankara and Washington as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes 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.

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