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Nuland says Turkey can return to F-35 consortium if S-400 issue resolved

The visit to Turkey by the US State Department's No. 2 comes as another signal of the burgeoning positive momentum in Washington-Ankara ties after Turkey approved Sweden’s membership in NATO.

ANKARA — Washington and Ankara can start talks over Turkey’s return to the F-35 program if the issue regarding the Russian-made S-400 defense system is resolved, acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said this week.

“Obviously, if we could get through this S-400 issue, which we would like to do, the US would be delighted to welcome [Turkey] back into the F-35 family. But we have to settle this other issue first,” Nuland told Turkey’s CNNTurk television on Monday.

The senior US official visited Ankara in the hopes of revitalizing ties. The visit comes only days after Ankara ratified Sweden’s membership to NATO and Washington approved the selling of F-16 fighter jets to the Turkish military. 

But the F-35 acquisition could prove more complex. Turkey was expelled from the consortium that manufactures the new generation F-35 stealth fighter jets in 2020 under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) after it acquired the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. CAATSA was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 2017 and introduces sanctions on any significant transactions with Russia.

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