Trump to meet lawmakers as Turkey sanctions pressure mounts - WSJ

U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet a group of senators at the White House this week to discuss sanctions against Turkey as congressional pressure mounts to punish Ankara for its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. 

Last week, the United States suspended Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme after Ankara began accepting deliveries of Russia’s S-400 systems. U.S. officials had repeatedly advised Turkey that the S-400 posed a threat to the F-35, warning of sanctions under a 2017 law that bars U.S. allies from purchasing arms from Russia. 

Trump has told his advisers that he wants to avoid sanctions on Turkey, according to WSJ, and has given such assurances to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Last week, Trump said the White House was considering sanctions but did not expect to levy them “right now”.

Congress is taking a much tougher stance, pressuring the White House to institute sanctions or risk congressional action against Turkey, according to people familiar with the discussions, said WSJ. Last week, Republican senators Rick Scott and Todd Young proposed a resolution condemning Turkey’s S-400 deal and called on the administration to impose sanctions.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton has told NATO officials that the administration would make an announcement on possible sanctions as early as this week, WSJ said, citing officials. 

Trump is expected to make his decision after consulting with Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr. Bolton, both of whom have recommended sanctions, sources told WSJ. 

The U.S. president has called Republican senators for a meeting to discuss the sanctions on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported last week.

“Any decision will be complicated by the Trump administration’s need for Turkish cooperation in northern Syria, where the U.S. is trying to secure the area along the Turkish border from Islamic State extremists,” said WSJ, adding that James Jeffrey, the special U.S. representative for Syrian engagement, arrived in Ankara on Sunday for meetings this week with Turkish officials. 

Under the 2017 law, known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, if Congress thinks the administration’s actions are too weak, lawmakers have the power to intervene and impose punitive measures, said WSJ.