Ankara and Washington are in talks to form joint working group on S-400: Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, December 30, that his country 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 defiance systems.

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.

According to Reuters 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 January 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.

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 says 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 says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defiance systems. Turkey rejects this and says 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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