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Despite Turkey’s assurances, US still eyes sanctions, F-35 exit

The Trump administration still plans to impose sanctions on Turkey and remove it from a critical US-made and developed FA-35 fighter jet program if the NATO ally acquires Russian air defences, despite the Turkish president’s assurances to the contrary.

After meeting US President Donald Trump over the weekend in Japan, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would be spared damaging US sanctions once Russia’s S-400 air defence system starts arriving in Turkey in coming days.

Trump appeared sympathetic to Erdogan at the talks and reluctant to publicly commit to sanctions.

The US government intends to impose sanctions on Turkey and pull it from the F-35 fighter jet program if it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 system.

“Turkey will face negative consequences if it proceeds with its S-400 acquisition, including suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 program and exposure to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” a State Department spokeswoman said.

If the United States removes Turkey from the F-35 program and imposes sanctions on the NATO ally, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two nations.

Speaking in Japan last week, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration for failing to help Turkey acquire a US alternative to the S-400s system — Patriot missiles, made by Raytheon Co. He said Erdogan was not at fault.

Even minor US sanctions could prompt another sharp sell-off in the Turkish lira. A 30% slide in the currency drove the economy into recession last year, and the lira has lost another 10% this year. Hard-hit Turkish financial assets jumped on Monday after Erdogan’s latest upbeat remarks.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are broadly opposed to allowing Turkey to have both systems.

To show it is serious, Washington has already started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 program. It has halted training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft and refused to accept any others.

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