Erdoğan says Trump backed Turkey plan to resolve S-400 impasse

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said President Donald Trump approved a study by Ankara aimed at rendering the deployment of Russian S-400 air defence missiles compliant with its NATO commitments.

Trump said Turkey should begin work on the plan and he would await its conclusion, Erdoğan said during a flight back from an official visit to Qatar, Hürriyet newspaper and other local media reported on Tuesday.

“The decision to carry out this work was the most positive outcome of our meeting that day,” Erdoğan said of his talks with Trump at the White House on Nov. 13. “There are steps that need to be taken in line with NATO rules.”

Turkey’s Defence Ministry and Foreign Ministry will work together on the study, Erdoğan said. He said the process will be completed by April.

U.S. Senators are preparing a set of economic sanctions against Turkey for its purchase of the air defence missiles. The punitive measures, which could include a ban on U.S. purchases of Turkish sovereign debt, would then be presented to Trump for approval.

Bloomberg reported earlier on Tuesday that U.S. legislators will speed up their work on the draft steps as Turkey began tests this week in Ankara to ensure a first batch of missiles could detect Turkish warplanes.

Erdoğan said Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s was a NATO issue and that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already expressed his views on the matter.

Turkey’s purchase of S-400s is “creating discussions within the alliance”, Stoltenberg said following a meeting with Trump on Nov. 14. NATO welcomed talks between Turkey and the United States over the possible delivery of alternative missile systems such as Patriots, he said.

In August, Stoltenberg said that while Russian missiles could not be integrated into NATO’s air defences, Turkey was a key member of the organisation.

“The S-400 issue is a serious issue, but Turkey's contributions, Turkey's role in NATO runs much deeper than the issue of S-400,” Stoltenberg said.