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Legislators press trumps on sanctions against Turkey



WASHINGTON – President Trump plans to meet with a group of White House senators this week to discuss possible sanctions against Turkey as pressure from lawmakers to punish Ankara for the recent purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

Mr. Trump said last week that the US will withhold sales of advanced F-35 stealth jets to Turkey after Ankara received the new S-400 air defense system from Russia. The US move drew protests from Ankara and rebalanced the organization of the North Atlantic Treaty.

The decision to cancel the F-35 shipment was to be expected in light of military warnings that allowed the advanced hunter to fly near Ankara. The Russian air defense system would provide Russia with a valuable source of information.

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But Mr. Trump has told his advisers that he wants to avoid sanctions against Turkey, and has given such assurances to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the persons familiar with the discussions demonstrate.

Mr. Erdogan tried to defuse tensions over the S-400 when he met with Mr. Trump in Japan in June on the sidelines of the Group 20 summit, US and foreign officials said.

Trump told reporters last week, "We're not watching."

Congress is taking a much tougher stance and is putting pressure on the White House to impose sanctions or risk congressional measures against Turkey, Turkey's officials said.

Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.) And Senator Todd Young (R., Ind.) Proposed a resolution last week condemning Turkey's decision to buy the S-400 from Russia and called on the government to impose sanctions on Turkey.

] The sanctions would fall under a comprehensive 201

7 law banning transactions with Moscow's defense and intelligence sectors. The law requires the president to choose sanctions ranging from denial of visas to more stringent measures such as banning trade with the US financial system.

On Friday, White House national security adviser John Bolton told officials from several NATO member states that, according to two foreign government officials, the government would announce possible sanctions this week.

The White House has told members of Congress that Mr. Trump will make the decision after consulting with Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo and Mr. Trump. Bolton and has claimed that the matter falls under his authority as president.

Both Messrs. Bolton and Pompeo have recommended sanctions at some level, claiming that the introduction of the Russian system into NATO territory should, in the opinion of well-known individuals, not be overlooked.

Any decision is hampered by the need for Turkish cooperation by the Trump government in northern Syria, where the US is trying to protect the area along the Turkish border from Islamic state extremists. US Ambassador James Jeffrey, US Special Representative on Syrian Engagement, arrived in Ankara on Sunday to meet in the region this week. Jeffrey is also US Special Representative for Combating Islamic State.

The 2017 Sanctions Act, known as Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, does not provide for a timetable for imposing sanctions or granting the President an exemption. Mr. Trump may postpone indefinitely.

By law, however, Congress traditionally has the right to intervene and impose punitive measures if Congress considers the administration's measures too weak or if the president waives sanctions tougher sanctions, while the US authorities use a diplomatic approach Take the path. But even if the legislature decides not to override a government decision against sanctions, Turkey could draw further consequences from future legislative decisions on sanctions and expenditures.

The government initially used the Sanctions Authority of 2017 against China after the military had purchased S-400 and S-400 SU-35 jet fighters aimed at the Chinese unit that made the purchases. If the government uses the same tactics for Turkey, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries would be the target of the military unit responsible for the purchase along with its senior officials.

The Turkish embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment, but Turkey has condemned the Trump government's decision on the F-35 program.

While Mr. Trump signaled that he was unwilling to sanction Ankara for the new purchase of the S-400, officials from his government did not shy away. Last year, the Ministry of Finance imposed sanctions on the Turkish Minister of Justice for detaining the American pastor Andrew Brunson, which aggravated the tensions. After Turkey released Mr Brunson, the Minister of Justice was removed from the black list of the Ministry of Finance.

Write to Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com and Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com.

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