Jun 07 2018

Senate likely to vote on Turkey sanction bill next week

The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a bill that includes amendments calling for sanctions and an embargo on arm sales to Turkey, including new generation F-35 fighter jets expected to be shipped this month, Joyce Karam reported for The National on Thursday.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including the sections targeting the F-35 deal with Turkey, passed the Senate Committee on Armed Services on Thursday, after months of bipartisan pressure by senates including Jeanne Shaheen and James Lankford.

The Senate vote on the NDAA will likely take place next week, Karam quoted a Committee on Armed Services spokesperson as saying.

This will give ample time to block the delivery of Turkey’s first batch of 30 out of F-35 jets out of over 100 on order, which were due to be transported on Jun. 21.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Monday asserted that the F-35 deal would take place, having come out of a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo during which the pair made progress in resolving the two countries’ diverging Syria policies.

There still remains, however, a list of sticking points that has driven the 70-year NATO allies apart, not least Turkey’s arrest of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and the decision to purchase S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.

Both issues were touched on in the NDAA amendment, and the imprisonment of Brunson, who many believe is being used as leverage against the United States, is a particularly sore point for Shaheen and Lankford.

The S-400 purchase, which NATO fears will harm the interoperability of allied countries’ defence systems, should be grounds for sanctions, according to the NDAA amendment.

The draft legislation calls for all arms sales to Turkey to be postponed until a report is prepared for Congress on Turkey’s recent behaviour. It also recommends removing the country from the F-35 programme. Turkey has been a partner in the production of the jet, with the defence manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries a secondary producer of fuselages for the aircraft.