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December 30, 2020 11:34 am

Turkey, US in Talks to Form Joint Working Group on S-400s, Sanctions: Minister

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, August 8, 2019. Photo: Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS.

Turkey and the United States have started talks to form a joint working group regarding US sanctions imposed over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

Washington slapped the sanctions on NATO ally Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate (SSB), its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees this month following its acquisition of the S-400s.

The sanctions come at a delicate moment in the fraught relationship between Ankara and Washington as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden gears up to take office on Jan. 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.

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Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had now indicated interest in setting up a joint working 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 right now, the joint working group has not been set up yet,” Cavusoglu said.

Turkey said its purchase of the S-400s was not a choice but a necessity as it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.

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

Cavusoglu also said on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to take steps to improve ties with the United States and hoped the incoming Biden administration would do the same.

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