Three US senators move to block F-35 transfers to Turkey

Senators look to block F-35 delivery to Turkey over imprisoned American pastor

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed Friday that he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the two reaffirmed a pledge to cooperate on the Syrian city of Manbij.

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday moved to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in response to the detainment of an American pastor charged for terrorism in the country.

Erdogan declared a state of emergency in Turkey following an attempted coup in July 2016.

The three senators voiced concern about Turkey's detention of an American evangelical preacher, Andrew Brunson, a long-time resident of Turkey who was jailed during Erdogan's crackdown. The juxtaposition of the two efforts highlights the complex relationship the USA has with Turkey, which hosts Incirlik Air Base, a key Air Force hub.

Turkey, a coalition member in the fight against the Islamic State, plans to buy more than 100 F-35As, the conventional takeoff and landing model of the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison for "enjoying a meal" often prepared by Kurds.

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A senior USA official, quoted by news agencies, for his part said that "He (Pompeo) asked Cavusoglu to closely consider North Atlantic Treaty Organisation interoperable systems", seemingly referring to the Patriot systems that Washington would want to sell to Ankara.

In a joint statement, Sen Shaheen outlined the terms under which she would withdraw her support of the bill and agree to transfer of the F-35 to Turkey.

Turkey signed an agreement with Russian Federation for S-400 missiles, reportedly worth $2.5 billion, in late December as part of Ankara's plans to boost its defense capabilities amid threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.

Defense sources in Ankara indicate that Russian Federation is speeding up the delivery date of the missiles upon Turkey's request and that a first batch could be shipped in early 2019 and deployed in a matter of months.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has previously said that a deal with the U.S. to reduce tensions over the Kurdish-held Manbij is "doable" but requires Washington to clear up confusion in its policy.

The missile system can detect targets 600 km away and eliminate threats from multiple sources.

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