Trump, Erdogan discuss working group on Russian S-400 missile system

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks withh Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the opening ceremony of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday discussed a Turkish proposal to create a joint working group on its planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defence system, the Turkish Presidency said.

“Our Honourable President brought up the proposal to establish a working group regarding the procurement of the S-400 defence system from the Russian Federation,” it said.

The two countries have argued for months over Turkey’s order for the missile defence system, which the United States says is incompatible with NATO’s defence network and could compromise its F-35 fighter jets.

Ankara has said a working group could assess the impact of the S-400 on the fighter jets, but on Friday said that it has not heard back from the Americans.

The White House confirmed on Monday that Trump and Erdogan had discussed Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defence system.

Asked if Trump raised with Erdogan the U.S. concerns about Turkey buying the S-400 system, a senior administration official said:

“We have been clear and consistent in emphasizing our grave concerns on the S-400 acquisition with representatives of the Turkish government on numerous occasions and at the highest levels.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several U.S. senators have warned Turkey it will face penalties for buying S-400s under a law that calls for sanctions against countries procuring military equipment from Russia.

Turkey has said that as a NATO member, it poses no threat to the United States and the sanctions should not apply.

Trump and Erdogan also discussed trade and the ongoing crisis in Syria, the White House said.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; writing by Ali Kucukgocmen and Makini Brice; editing by Jonathan Spicer and James Dalgleish)

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