WASHINGTON (Middle East Eye) – The U.S. has presented “alternatives” to Turkey in order to lift sanctions imposed on the country over the acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.
“We have offered alternatives to Turkey, they know exactly what to do if they want to get out from underneath these sanctions,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in an interview with CNN Turk.
“I hope that we can find a way forward.”
Sherman’s statement came as she visited Ankara this week in the first such diplomatic trip made by a member of the Biden administration.
Washington imposed sanctions on Turkish officials in December 2020 under a U.S. law that bars significant military transactions with Russia. Turkey was also removed from the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet program by the Pentagon in 2019 due to concerns over possible Russian espionage through the S-400s.
“Turkey is well aware of the steps it needs to take,” Sherman said in televised remarks.
“We have talked about ways to take them, and this will be a decision for Turkey to take.”
However, a Turkish official told Middle East Eye that Sherman had not brought forward any new proposals.
“They still want Turkey to move the S-400 systems out of the country or return it,” the official said.
Multiple Turkish officials said in the past that Ankara wasn’t considering the removal of the system from the country since it was a done deal and there was no turning back.
U.S. Congressional legislation last year conditioned the removal of U.S. sanctions on removal of the system from Turkey. It was speculated in the past that Ankara could move the S-400 to Azerbaijan or Qatar as a way out of the crisis yet these claims have not materialized since the Turkish government is still pushing for a technical committee to co-habit S-400s and F-35s.
The Turkish official said that the meeting between Sherman and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal that took place on Thursday was cordial and comprehensive. The official added that it was meant to prepare the ground for a meeting between President Joe Biden and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.