U.S. terror envoy heads to Turkey as S-400 tensions peak

The U.S.’ top counter-terror official is expected in Ankara this week for talks with his Turkish counterparts, days after Washington threatened to expel Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet programme in response to its planned purchase of a Russian missile defence system, the State Department announced on Wednesday.

State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, Ambassador Nathan Sales, is expected to meet with Turkish officials to discuss the repatriation and prosecution of captured Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda fighters, border security and Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), according to a department statement, which did not specify on which day Sales would arrive in Ankara.

U.S.-Turkey tensions are rising in connection to the latter’s looming receipt of Russian-made S-400 missile defence system, expected next month. Last week, Washington sent a letter to Ankara outlining its expulsion from the F-35 programme should it receive the S-400 system, while the Pentagon terminated F-35 training for Turkish pilots to protest Ankara’s plan to buy the S-400, which U.S. officials have repeatedly said would compromise NATO defenses. 

Responding to the letter on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the S-400 deal was “already complete”.