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Graham, Van Hollen warn Pompeo that 'patience' on Turkey sanctions 'has long expired'

Graham, Van Hollen warn Pompeo that 'patience' on Turkey sanctions 'has long expired'
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan pair of senators is urging the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey after it tested a missile defense system it bought from Russia.

Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLet's give thanks to Republican defenders of Democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-S.C.) penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE Monday warning him that the “time for patience has long expired.”

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“It is time you applied the law,” Van Hollen and Graham wrote. “Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence.”

At issue is Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system. Ankara defied U.S. warnings of the system’s incompatibility with the U.S.-made F-35 fighter jet, as well as threats of sanctions, and took delivery of the system in July. In response, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program.

But doing business with Russia’s defense industry is also supposed to trigger sanctions under a law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a penalty the Trump administration has yet to levy.

“You have previously acknowledged that Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system triggers U.S. sanctions,” the senators wrote to Pompeo. “Specifically, you said, ‘the law requires that there be sanctions. And I’m confident that we will comply with the law, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE will comply with the law.’ You were right when you made that statement.”

Graham was among a group of Republican senators who met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the White House last month. During the meeting, the senators said, they confronted Erdoğan about the S-400.

Still, after the meeting, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischWill Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Idaho) said he did not think it was the right time for the Senate to pass a Turkey sanctions bill, citing his desire to give the administration room to continue negotiations over the S-400 issue.

Graham and Van Hollen are sponsors of one of the bills in the Senate that would sanction Turkey over the Russian defense system, as well as its offensive in Syria against Kurdish forces.

Last week, Turkish media reported the country would begin testing the S-400, reportedly flying U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets over Ankara to test the system’s radar.

Pompeo said last week the tests were “concerning,” but that talks with Turkey were ongoing.

Meanwhile, Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, said last week it hopes to reach a deal with Turkey to supply more S-400s in the first half of 2020.

“Both the administration and the Congress have repeatedly warned President Erdogan that his decision to move forward with the S-400 requires the imposition of American sanctions,” Graham and Van Hollen wrote in their letter to Pompeo. “Despite President Erdogan’s recent visit to the White House, he has given no public indications that he is going to change course.”