Blinken warns Turkey, US allies against purchasing Russian weapons
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday warned Turkey and other U.S. allies against buying weapons systems from Russia, saying such purchases could be subject to sanctions and strain ties with Washington.
Speaking at a virtual event, Blinken singled out Turkey as it undergoes talks with Russia for a second purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft weapons system, saying it could be penalized under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
“It’s also very important going forward that Turkey, and for that matter all U.S. allies and partners, avoid future purchases of Russian weaponry, including additional S-400s,” Blinken said.
“Any significant transactions with Russian defense entities, again, could be subject to the law, to CAATSA, and that’s separate from and in addition to the sanctions that have already been imposed,” he added.
The U.S. first slapped sanctions on Turkey in December over its 2019 purchase of the S-400 missile defense system. The penalties targeted Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), SSB’s president, Ismail Demir, and other SSB officers. They banned on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations and imposed visa restrictions and asset freezes for the individuals and agency.
Despite those sanctions, Turkey has said it is in talks with Russia for another purchase of the weapons system.
Those purchases are only one source of strain in the relationship between Washington and Ankara. The two capitals have clashed over the U.S.’s decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria, while the U.S. has pressed Turkey on its human rights record.
Those tensions were exacerbated further when President Biden recognized the 1915 killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.
Turkey, which has denied the killings amounted to a genocide, said the declaration would hurt bilateral ties.
“This statement of the US, which distorts the historical facts, will never be accepted in the conscience of the Turkish people, and will open a deep wound that undermines our mutual trust and friendship,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Despite the latest spat, Blinken said Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a “good conversation” last week and that Biden was looking forward to their meeting during the June NATO summit.
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