Senate passes defence bill calling for Turkey sanctions over S-400

U.S. Senate passed on Tuesday a $738 billion defence bill calling for sanctions against Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 defence system.

Senators voted 86-8 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has now been sent to the desk of U.S President Donald Trump for approval, the Hill said.

The legislation, which cleared the House last week and authorises spending and lays out policy guidelines for the Pentagon,  also prohibits the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey gives the Pentagon up to $30 million to buy and store F-35s meant for the country.

Turkey began to take delivery of the Russian S-400s in July, prompting Washington to suspend it from the F-35 fighter jet programme, halt its order of 100 of the new-generation jets, and begin procedures to sanction the country under 2017 legislation designed to discourage countries from arms deals with Russia.

U.S. officials say the presence of Russian systems on NATO-allied territory could leave the jets open to subterfuge. Ankara denies this and says the purchase was necessary since a deal to buy Patriot systems from the United States fell through.

The bill also targets pipe-laying vessels for Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, a Russia-Turkey pipeline, and includes asset freezes and revocation of U.S. visas for the contractors.

The Turkish Stream pipeline linking Russia and Turkey to Europe via the Black Sea is nearly complete and expected to soon go online. 

The legislation furthermore attempts to lift the U.S. arms embargo on the divided island of Cyprus in favour of the Greek Cypriot administration.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into predominantly Greek Cypriot south, whose government is internationally recognised, and the Turkish Cypriot north, whose sovereignty is only recognised by Ankara.

Trump has pledged that he will sign the legislation, which was caught for months in negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, “immediately” once it reaches his desk.

The Turkish defence ministry in a statement it issued on Tuesday condemned the bill, saying it once again contained hostile elements toward Turkey.

“We would like to once again remind that the language of threat and sanctions will not deter Turkey from taking the necessary steps to ensure its national security," news site T24 quoted the ministry as saying.