Trump, Erdogan discuss working group on Russian S-400

US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call discussed a proposal to create a joint-working group on its planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defence system.

“Our honourable president brought up the proposal to establish a working group regarding the procurement of the S-400 defence system from the Russian Federation,” a statement from the Turkish presidency said.

The White House confirmed Trump and Erdogan discussed Turkey’s planned purchase of the controversial S-400s.

The two countries have argued for months over Turkey’s order for the missile defence system, which the United States says is incompatible with NATO’s defence network and could compromise its F-35 fighter jets.

Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkey won’t step back from the deal with Russia, despite mounting pressure from Washington – including threats of sanctions on Turkey.

“No one can demand that we give it up,” Erdogan said this month in Moscow alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. “This is our sovereign right.”

Putin said delivering the S-400s to Turkey was a national priority.

Face penalties?

Asked if Trump raised with Erdogan the US concerns about Turkey buying the S-400 system, a senior administration official said: “We have been clear and consistent in emphasizing our grave concerns on the S-400 acquisition with representatives of the Turkish government on numerous occasions and at the highest levels.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several US senators have warned Turkey it will face penalties for buying S-400s under a law that calls for sanctions against countries procuring military equipment from Russia.

Turkey has said as a NATO member it poses no threat to the United States and the sanctions should not apply.

Trump and Erdogan also discussed trade and the ongoing crisis in Syria, the White House said.

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