United States President Donald Trump met with Republican senators who urged the Washington administration to impose sanctions on Turkey, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Attending the Republican weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Trump remained reluctant to the call for sanctions and instead preferred to talk about other matters discussed in Congress earlier this week.
The 45 Republican senators including Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and James Risch who are members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs clashed with the president during a closed-door meeting over the possible use of sanctions against Turkey over its decision to purchase a missile defense system from Russia.
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a federal law concerning potential sanctions against was reportedly discussed during the meeting.
Instead of imposing strong sanctions on Turkey, Trump argued for negotiations with Ankara which led the senator Risch to dispute openly with the president, according to the Washington Post report citing people in the meeting.
The White House has yet to issue a statement.
Trump faces harsh criticism from both parties who insist Washington must punish Ankara for accepting the S400s which were delivered to Turkey earlier this month.
Trump previously told his advisers that he wants to avoid sanctioning NATO-ally Turkey, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday.
The WSJ cited people familiar with the discussions that the US president had given such assurances to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Trump reportedly assured Erdogan at the G20 Summit in Osaka late in June that Turkey would not be subjected to sanctions for its procurement of the Russian system.
However US authorities including Congress have been threatening Turkey since April with imposing sanctions if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal, fearing they would allow Russia to learn how to spot and track the F-35 fighter jets.
“The law requires that there be sanctions and I am confident that we will comply with the law and Trump will comply with the law,” the Washington Post quoted State Secretary Mike Pompeo as saying On July 14.
Last week the US administration suspended Turkey from participating in the F-35 jet program over Ankara’s refusal to pull out of the deal with Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 air defense system. The expulsion is slated to be completed by the end of March 2020.
The F-35 jets are built by American firm Lockheed Martin Corp to avoid tracking by enemy radars and heat sensors. The US had given Ankara until July 31 to scrap the contentious deal.
A resolution condemning the dealings of the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government with Russia was introduced last week by Republican senators Rick Scott and Todd Young, calling for Turkey to be sanctioned under the CAATSA provision.
“I do not believe the US is going to sanction us. But if they do, we will sanction them in return. We conducted our study on S-400 radars. It does not harm F-35 jets,” Erdogan said in June.
At the time, Erdogan vowed that Turkey had good relations both with the Democrats and Republicans. He argued that losing NATO-ally Turkey would not be easy.