WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday announced sanctions on a key Turkish defense agency over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

NATO member Turkey took possession of the Russian weapons last year, despite repeated warnings from the U.S. that it would lead to sanctions. The move came amid closer cooperation between Ankara and Moscow over a range of military and economic affairs.

The U.S. has argued that by making the deal with Russia for the S-400s, Turkey was endangering the security of U.S. military technology and providing funds to the Russian defense sector.

Turkey was previously suspended from the F-35 fighter jet program because of the Russian weapons purchase and has been unable to buy the advanced jets from the U.S.

The sanctions on the Presidency of Defense Industries, or SSB, include a ban on all U.S. export licenses to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on agency head Ismail Demir, according to the State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Turkey to “resolve the S-400 problem immediately in coordination with the United States,” saying Ankara remains an ally.

Turkey condemned the “unjust” sanctions and said it would “take the necessary steps against this decision,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

It threatened retaliation and criticized Washington for refusing to accept Ankara’s proposal “to resolve the issue through dialogue and diplomacy.”

Demir himself tweeted: “Any decision taken abroad towards my person or our institution will not change the stance of me and my team and will not be able to hinder the Turkish defence industry in any way.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the measures displayed an “arrogance towards international law,” according to the Interfax news agency.

While the sanctions were not a surprise, Lavrov said that they were “illegitimate, unilateral coercive measures” by the U.S.

The sanctions are being imposed under CAATSA, legislation that was designed to force economic restrictions on foreign adversaries of the U.S. – notably Russia, Iran and North Korea – and those who work with them.

The S-400 saga is one of numerous thorns in the relationship between Ankara and Washington, which has become increasingly tense in recent years, including over Syria.

There is also an ongoing investigation into a Turkish bank over sanctions busting related to Iran.

 


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