The future of negotiations is complicated by a recent seesaw in Washington-Ankara relations.
The new Congress in the U.S, with a majority of Democrats in the House, keeps an eye on Turkey by holding arms sales bans and sanctions in hand as Turkey signals to face Russia after a disagreement with Washington on Kurdish issue in Syria.
Newly elected House Democrats voted to pass a spending bill that suspends arms sales and put some sanctions on Turkey last week. Originated by the Republican-held Senate last year, the bill wasn’t brought to House at the time.
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire from Democratic Party spoke to Al-Monitor as saying: “It depends on what happens with Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 missile system, that will have some impact.”
The core of the issue is Turkey’s pending acquisition of S-400 missile defense system from Russia. Besides that, it shows no signal to release detained US citizen Serkan Golge and some consular staff.
Though the Senate Republicans refuse to bring forward the bill which doesn’t fund President Donald Trump’s steel border wall proposal with Mexico, a bipartisan consensus spreads in both chambers to scrutinize Ankara’s next moves towards Russia, according to Al-Monitor.
“We’re still discussing it,” noted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The provisions in the bill include a ban on the transfer of F-35 fighter jet to Turkey unless White House guarantees that Ankara stops purchasing S-400 from Russia.
Moreover, a group of US sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act await Turkey, should it insists on acquiring S-400. That bill requires the Trump administration to sanction countries doing business with designated Russian defense contractors, including Almaz-Antey, which produces the S-400s.
The Pentagon, showing reluctance on a ban as Turkey participates in an F-35 co-production program, reported to Congress last year that kicking Turkey out could delay the delivery of between 50 and 75 F-35s by up to two years.
On the other hand, lawmakers have also pushed to narrow sanctions in the spending bill, which would place visa bans on senior Turkish officials involved in the detention of US citizens.
After Turkey released US pastor Andrew Brunson, the tension between two allies seemed to be easing, however, Ankara continues to detain a NASA Scientist, US citizen Serkan Gölge, and other US consular staff.
Despite Trump’s lack of efforts to bring back Golge and secure release of consular staff, as he did for Brunson, Sen. Shaheen told Al-Monitor that the detentions “continue to be a concern.”
And now, a potential arms sales ban and sanctions to Turkey surface again, as Ankara heads for Moscow after refusing Trump’s condition of “not to attack Syrian Kurds” following US troops withdrawal from the area.
US and Turkish officials couldn’t come up with a road-map deal on future presence of the Turkish army in Syria after a meeting in Ankara, on Tuesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet Trump’s top security adviser John Bolton and instead snubbed him before lawmakers in parliament.
Turkey sees People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish armed group in Syria cooperating with the US in combat against ISIL in Syria, as an offshoot of banned PKK, and classifies it as a terrorist organization.