US in last minute push against S-400 accord
Sevil Erkuş- ANKARA
Two State Department officials have paid a visit to Ankara for talks on United States-Turkey cooperation in Syria and the latter’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defense systems.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer and James Jeffrey, the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria will hold talks in Ankara.
Palmer may hold meetings until March 6, diplomatic sources told Hürriyet Daily News. He is expected to focus on the issue of Turkey’s procurement of Russian air defense systems and the sale of U.S. Patriot systems to Turkey.
In the past few weeks, Washington has been carrying on with a silent diplomacy for its accelerated pressure on Ankara for the cancellation of the S-400 deal. In February, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence conveyed the U.S.’s concerns to Ankara on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump and asked Turkey to abort its S-400 purchase.
Turkey officially signed a $2.5 billion agreement with Russia for the S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missile system. The U.S. warns that the Russian S-400 defense systems would jeopardize Turkey’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project.
“We are very concerned that the Turkish purchase of the S-400 missiles will endanger Turkish participation in the F-35 program and will likely result through our legislation in some sort of sanctions coming through the legislations called CAATSA [the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act],” a senior U.S. official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. “So the U.S. government is of the view that we will not proceed with the Patriot sale if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase,” the official has added.
On Jan. 3, a U.S. delegation formally made an offer to Turkey for the sale of Patriot systems. The U.S. put an informal deadline of Feb. 15 for Ankara to respond to its offer on the Patriot systems. The formal U.S. offer for Turkey’s purchase of Patriot systems expires at the end of March, but so far, Turkey seems to have not accepted the U.S. offer for a $3.5 billion worth of Patriot systems, which Washington pledged to deliver until the end of 2019, but has not promised the transfer of the technology so far.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said that will not change course on buying the S-400s, but it could also accept a “good offer” on Patriots.
Jeffrey, meanwhile, is expected to focus on Syria, particularly on the Manbij deal and U.S. plans to withdraw from the war-torn country. Turkey and the U.S. agreed last year in June over a road map for the withdrawal of all YPG troops from Manbij to the east of the Euphrates and for the establishment of a new city council by the local Arabs. Turkey has long been criticizing the U.S. for prolonging the process.