Turkey is “considering” NATO concerns over its Russian missile deal, the country’s foreign minister said in more conciliatory remarks over tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The NATO allies have been arguing for months over Turkey’s order for the advanced S-400 missile defense batteries, which Washington says are incompatible with the Western alliance’s defense network and would pose a threat to US F-35 stealth fighter jets which Turkey also has plans to buy.
“We are taking into account NATO’s concerns. It is not right to say Turkey is not considering them,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara on Friday.
His remarks followed a visit by Turkey’s defense minister to Washington and a meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law at the White House, where they discussed the S-400 deal, local media reported.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several prominent US senators have warned Turkey that it would face severe penalties for buying the S-400s under legislation which calls for sanctions against countries procuring military equipment from Russia, even though that same equipment could very well be better than the one NATO provides its allies.
Even minor US sanctions could prompt another sharp sell-off in the Turkish lira that can deepen the recession in the Middle East’s largest economy. After shedding 30 percent of its value last year, the currency is down another 10 percent and markets remain on edge.
Buying military equipment from Russia leaves Turkey liable to US retribution under a 2017 law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.
The talks were “more positive than expected” and the Americans expressed “a softer tone” than they take in public, a second senior Turkish official told Reuters.
Trump has not weighed in on Turkey in recent weeks. Even if Turkey did have his support, however, that common ground may prove elusive.
Relations between the two countries have been strained over several disputes, including military strategy in the Syrian conflict, Iran sanctions, and Turkey’s requests for Washington to extradite a US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed 2016 military coup.
- ALJAZEERA contributed to this report.