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US senator wants Turkey 'back in F-35 program' following punitive expulsion

Turkey was ejected from the program in June [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2019

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Turkey was ejected from the F-35 fighter jet program after purchasing Russia's S-400s missile defence systems.
US Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday said he would like to have Turkey rejoin the F-35 fighter jet program after its 
from the NATO intiative in June, Reuters reported.

Ankara was kicked out of the program after going forward with its purchase of Russia's S-400 missile defence systems despite repeated warnings by Western allies.

US officials said Turkey could no longer remain in the joint production program for the stealth fighter jets as its purchase of the Russian technology posed a risk to NATO defences.

"We're trying to get them back in the F-35 program," Graham, a top Republican and ally of President Donald Trump, said on Sunday after meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a video posted on Twitter, Graham said he and the Turkish president had discussed a possible free trade agreement between Ankara and Washington.

"Turkey is a very important ally, not just when it comes to Syria but for the whole region," he said.

While Turkey and the US have increasingly butted heads in recent years over issues including the S-400s and Ankara's detention of an American pastor, Washington remains reliant on Erdogan for aspects of its Syria policy.

The two NATO members last month agreed to collaborate in building a so-called "safe zone" in northern Syria.

President Erdogan is set to meet with his counterpart Donald Trump this week.

Earlier this month, the Turkish president said he would discuss buying US Patriot missile defence systems with Trump.

The US president had expressed sympathy with Erdogan over his previous failed attempts to buy the Patriots and his ultimate purchase of the S-400s.

After being ejected from the F-35 program in June, Ankara said it could look elsewhere in its pursuit of fighter jets.

Russia is interested in selling Turkey its own Su-35 jets.

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