April 9, 2019 / 5:30 PM / 14 days ago

U.S. congressional committee leaders warn Turkey on F-35, S-400

FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen stand next to a new S-400 "Triumph" surface-to-air missile system after its deployment at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees warned Turkey on Tuesday that it risked tough sanctions if it pursued plans to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, and they threatened further legislative action.

“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both,” Republican Senators Jim Risch and Jim Inhofe and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Jack Reed said in a New York Times opinion column.

Risch is chairman of Foreign Relations and Menendez is ranking Democrat. Inhofe chairs Armed Services, where Reed is ranking Democrat.

As committee leaders, the senators have powers such as placing “holds” on major foreign weapons sales and major roles in writing legislation, which could include punishing Turkey if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal.

The senators said Turkey would be sanctioned, as required under U.S. law, if it goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.

“Sanctions will hit Turkey’s economy hard - rattling international markets, scaring away foreign direct investment and crippling Turkey’s aerospace and defense industry,” they said.

The United States and fellow NATO member Turkey have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400s, which are not compatible with NATO systems. Washington also says Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s would compromise the security of F-35 fighter jets, which are built by Lockheed Martin Corp and use stealth technology.

Turkey produces between 6 percent and 7 percent of the F-35.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio

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