U.S. secretary of state nominee calls NATO ally Turkey a 'so-called strategic partner'

WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - President-elect Joe Biden's choice for secretary of state on Tuesday referred to U.S. NATO ally Turkey as a "so-called strategic partner" and raised the possibility of imposing more sanctions on it for purchasing a Russian air defense system.

The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey on Dec. 14 over Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems, further complicating already strained ties between the two.

"The idea that a strategic – so-called strategic partner of ours would actually be in line with one of our biggest strategic competitors in Russia is not acceptable," Antony Blinken, Biden's choice for chief U.S. diplomat, told lawmakers.

"I think we need to take a look to see the impact that the existing sanctions have had and then determine whether (there is) more that needs to be done," Blinken said during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing.

Sanctions announced in December targeted Turkey's top defense procurement and development body Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), its chairman Ismail Demir and three other employees.

The measures, which received bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress, were announced under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) - the first time the act has been used against a fellow member of the NATO alliance.

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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