U.S. Senator Graham 'hopeful' for strategic Ankara-Washington relationship

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said he is hopeful for a more strategic relationship between Ankara and Washington following a meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in New York on Sunday.

"I am hopeful we can get a more strategic relationship with Turkey [...] try to get them back in F-35 program, maybe talk about free trade program," state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Graham as saying.

The United States in July expelled Turkey from F-35 programme, after Ankara received the first parts of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. Washington maintains that the F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform, as this will jeopardize sensitive information about the fighter jet’s technologies. Washington is also considering levying sanctions on Turkey for the S-400 purchase. 

Graham praised Turkey as an "indispensable to keeping Syria together" and the role it has played in helping in northeastern Syria to prevent re-emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS). 

"Most importantly, Turkey is protecting 4 million people from slaughter," Graham said.

Turkey and the United States last month started efforts to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria, which Ankara says will also serve as a peace corridor for the safe return of 3.6 million Syrians living in Turkey.

The safe zone also aims to address Ankara’s security concerns about the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have been key to the U.S.-led fight against ISIS.