Turkey, U.S. in Talks to Discuss Sanctions Imposed Over S-400s

Military vehicles and equipment, parts of the S-400 air defense systems, are unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft, at Murted military airport in Ankara, in 2019. (Turkish Defense Ministry via AP, Pool)

Turkey and the United States have formed a joint working group to discuss sanctions that Washington imposed on its ally over its purchase of an advanced Russian air defense system, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

In a year-end news conference assessing Turkish foreign policy, Mevlut Cavusoglu also told journalists that Turkey wants “healthier” relations with the United States under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

The U.S. announced sanctions earlier this month to penalize Turkey over its procurement of Russia’s advanced S-400 system, under a U.S. law known as CAATSA that aims to push back on Russian influence. It was the first time that CAATSA had been used to penalize a U.S. ally.

The sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, the head of the presidency and three other senior officials. They also include a ban on most export licenses, loans and credits to the agency.

Ties between the allies have been plagued by numerous other disputes, including the jailing of American citizens and local consular staff, U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish fighters considered to be terrorists by Turkey, and the continued U.S. residence of a Muslim cleric accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

“In 2020, our ties with the United States were overshadowed by existing problems,” Cavusoglu said. “In 2021, we are prepared to lead our relations with the new administration in a healthier manner and we are prepared to take steps to overcome existing problems.”

Cavusoglu said the proposal to set up the Turkish-U.S. working group came from the American side and that experts from both countries had begun negotiations.

“Because we support dialogue, we said ‘yes’ to the proposal and the negotiations at the level of experts have started,” he said.

Earlier this month, Cavusoglu had said Turkey was considering possible steps to reciprocate against the sanctions.

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