The U.S. has offered Turkey alternatives to Russia’s S-400s in a bid to prevent Ankara from completing the purchase of the missile defense system, an issue that significantly strained Ankara’s ties with its Western allies.
“We continue to work to keep the Turks in a place where they don’t actually acquire the S-400,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
“I believe that they have not yet and we are hopeful they will never take possession,” he added.
He also stated that the U.S. proposed alternatives to Turkey.
The secretary of state took on a wide array of issues concerning the U.S. diplomacy. Regarding relations with Turkey, he said he is working to convince Turkey to “rejoin NATO” by better reflecting NATO’s goals, following years of divergence with the U.S.
“They have been an important NATO partner. We need their behavior to reflect the objectives of NATO, and that’s what we’re diligently working to do: to get them to rejoin NATO, in a way, with their actions, consistent with what we’re trying to achieve in NATO,” he said. “And not take actions that undermine its efforts.”
Turkey’s relations with the U.S. are under stress due to a number of factors. The imprisonment of U.S. citizens, most notably Pastor Andrew Brunson, and the Turkish plan to acquire Russian system remain to be major sources of friction.
Ankara’s willingness to expand its military offensive toward Manbij where U.S. special forces are deployed to assist local Kurdish militia constitutes another point of discord. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly rails the U.S. over dismissing the Turkish calls for extradition of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom the Turkish authorities blame for the failed 2016 coup.
Patience wears thin in Washington, D.C., over the ongoing imprisonment of Pastor Brunson. In April, a number of bipartisan U.S. senators introduced a bill to block delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey over the Brunson case.
This month, U.S. House Armed Services Committee at the House of Representatives prohibited Pentagon from delivering weapons, including F-35s, to Turkey over the Pastor’s case and the S-400 purchase. The annual defense bill temporarily suspended weapons sale to Turkey as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Pompeo noted during the House testimony that he has not made a final decision whether to approve the sale of F-35s.
He also said he would meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in upcoming weeks to discuss relations regarding northern Syria.
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