Trump 'Delays F-35 Delivery to Turkey' as Diplomatic Crisis Escalates

A newly-signed defense bill stalls delivering the fighter jets pending a Pentagon report on Ankara-Washington relations, reports say

The Royal Air Force's first delivery of F35B aircraft fly from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, U.S. toward their new base RAF Marnham, Britain, June 6, 2018.
\ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a policy bill Sunday, postponing the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, the Turkish daily Hurriyet and American news magazine Foreign Policy reported.

The policy, now signed into law, prohibits delivering the F-35s pending a Pentagon report on the relations between Ankara and Washington, which is due in 90 days. The report is expected to assess the risks presented by Turkey purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

President Donald Trump smiles during a signing ceremony for a $716 billion defense policy bill named for Sen. John McCain Monday, August 13, 2018
Carolyn Kaster,AP

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The bill approves a $716 billion budget, $638 of which goes to the Pentagon for defense-related programs linked to the Department of Energy and another $69 billion for potential operations overseas.

Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over a wide range of topics - from diverging interests in Syria, to Turkey’s ambition to buy Russian defense systems, and the case of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges.

A Turkish delegation visited Washington for talks this week but left with no signs of a breakthrough.

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After almost 20 months in a Turkish jail, Brunson was moved to house arrest in July by a court. Since then, Trump and his U.S. Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly called for his release, while Ankara said the decision was up to the courts.

In response, the U.S. sanctioned two Turkish ministers and Trump on Friday announced it was doubling the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, saying relations with Ankara were “not good at this time.”

An important emerging market, Turkey borders Iran, Iraq and Syria and has been mostly pro-Western for decades. Financial upheaval risks further destabilizing an already volatile region.