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U.S. leaders hold off on Turkey sanctions

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. lawmakers say they are unhappy about Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system but are unsure what President Donald Trump — or Congress — should do next, suggesting efforts to impose sanctions were on the back burner for now.

The Trump administration said last week it was removing NATO ally Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Under a 2017 U.S. sanctions law known as CAATSA, Trump should also impose sanctions on Turkey for doing business with the Russian military, although he has not yet said whether he will do so. CAATSA does not set a timeline for sanctions.

Lawmakers have said they want to see a robust response, but Trump’s fellow Republicans have expressed greater caution. Aides said they did not expect any legislative action before Sept. 9, when lawmakers return from their summer recess.

Trump brought some 40 Republican senators to the White House to discuss the issue on Tuesday. Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there was a “spirited discussion” but that no conclusion was reached.

“I’ve said for a long, long time that it’s unacceptable for Turkey to have the S-400. And that’s the point I’m at. Now, what does that translate into? Let’s move forward and see how that goes,” he told reporters.

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, is used by NATO and other U.S. allies. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s systems.

Some lawmakers said it was essential not to sour relations with Turkey, an important player in dealings with neighbors Syria and Iraq. Turkey has threatened to retaliate if Washington imposes sanctions over the S-400.Speech

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