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Trump administration sanctions Turkey for Russian missile system

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) attend a joint news conference in Moscow on March 5. The Trump administration Monday sanctioned Turkey for its purchase of a Russian-made missile system. Photo by Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik-EPA-EFE
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) attend a joint news conference in Moscow on March 5. The Trump administration Monday sanctioned Turkey for its purchase of a Russian-made missile system. Photo by Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik-EPA-EFE

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The Trump administration hit Turkey with a round of sanctions Monday for purchasing a Russian missile defense system in 2017.

President Donald Trump had initially stalled on hitting the NATO ally with sanctions, even though Turkey's purchase of the missile system violated U.S. sanctions law.

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The delay brought complaints from Republicans and Democrats and Congress had recently passed the annual defense policy bill that required Trump to enact the sanctions within 30 days.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a deal to purchase the S-400 missile system for $2.5 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin. NATO allies argued that the system posed a threat to their allies and U.S. warplanes like the F-35.

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The system was delivered to Turkey in 2019 and Erdogan announced in October it had been successfully tested.

Matthew Palmer, deputy assistant secretary for European affairs at the State Department, told reporters during a special briefing on the matter that they've negotiated with the Turkish government for years to discourage it from the purchase, delivery and testing of the S-400, offering it air defense alternatives on multiple occasions.

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The delay in imposing the sanctions was due to them requiring a "thorough, deliberative process," Palmer said, to ensure the law has been followed and to understand their potential consequences.

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"We engaged in months and months of diplomacy with the Turkish government at every level to help Turkey find an off-ramp form the procurement of the S-400 system while still ensuring its legitimate national security needs are met," he said. "Imposing sanctions on a NATO ally is not something we take lightly."

"We very much regret that this has been necessary," Christopher Ashely Ford, assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, said. "We hope that Turkey will work with us to resolve the S-400 problem as quickly as possible."

Turkey said the Presidency of Defense Industries and its chief Ismail Demir was being sanctioned as part of the order along with defense officials Mustafa Alper Deniz, Serhat Gencoglu and Faruk Yigit. The Turkish Foreign Ministry called the sanctions baseless and it repeated asked to form a group to work out issues with purchasing the defense system.

"The U.S.' preference of rejecting our offer to solve the issue through diplomacy and imposing one-sided sanctions instead is an inexplicable act," the ministry statement said. "Turkey will take necessary steps against this move that will clearly harm the bilateral ties."

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Erdogan said in October he was not concerned with U.S. objections after testing the S-400.

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