Trump should waive sanctions, find middle ground - Turkey’s Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday called on his U.S. counterpart to not fall for what he called Congressional schemes and instead waive sanctions against Turkey for its purchase of Russian air defence systems and find a middle ground, according to multiple reports. 

U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that the S-400s pose a threat to U.S. and NATO defences, warning of sanctions as well as Turkey’s possible expulsion from the programme to build and operate F-35 stealth fighters. Turkey began taking delivery of S-400 systems on Friday, and as of Sunday had accepted seven shipments. 

Erdoğan told journalists that U.S. President Donald Trump “has the authority to waive or postpone CAATSA”, referring to U.S. sanctions that aim to prevent countries buying military equipment from Russia, according to Reuters.

“Since this is the case, it is Trump who needs to find the middle ground,” Erdoğan said, according to Habertürk.

Turkey’s president also described U.S. senator Robert Menendez as an "enemy of Turkey" whose actions threatened Turkish-U.S. relations. 

In April, Menendez and fellow Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill that calls for increased defence support for Turkey’s neighbours, including lifting the arms embargo on Cyprus, and halting the delivery to Turkey of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets if Ankara completes its purchase of Russia’s S-400 system.

"A senator's approach at this point should never damage Turkish-U.S. relations," said Erdoğan, expressing his belief that Trump would "not fall for this scheme,” according to pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah. 

Trump expressed sympathy for Turkey’s position when he met Erdoğan at a G20 summit in Japan last month, saying Ankara had bought the S-400s from Moscow because the previous U.S. administration would not sell it the U.S. Patriot system. 

“I don’t believe Trump is of the same opinion of those below him and he has said this in front of all the world’s media,” Erdoğan said.  

Yet top U.S officials continue to say Washington plans to take action. “The law requires that there be sanctions and I’m confident that we will comply with the law and President Trump will comply with the law,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Washington Post in an interview published on Sunday.