US ‘Considers’ Responding to Turkey’s Request for NATO ‘Assistance’ in Idlib, But Says Turkey Won’t Get Patriot Systems Unless S-400 is Returned to Russia

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WASHINGTON, D.C./ANKARA – Washington’s Special Envoy for Syria signaled that the United States is “exploring NATO involvement” in Idlib, and said that any violations of the truce in the northwestern Syrian province could be “punished with sanctions”, according to reports.

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James Jeffrey arrived in Brussels on Tuesday to meet with NATO allies and discuss “ways to support Turkey’s security concerns”, the State Department said in a statement, RT reported. In a conference call with reporters, Jeffrey stated that Washington is “looking” at what NATO can do for Turkey in Idlib, and that “everything is on the table”.

He reportedly warned that the United States could respond with sanctions if Russia or Syria violate the ceasefire brokered in Moscow between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. However, Jeffrey ruled out the use of ground troops should the ceasefire be broken.

He also used the opportunity to say that Ankara must clarify its position on its purchase of Russian S-400 anti-air systems. The arms sale has been a major point of tension between Ankara and Washington, with the US urging Turkey to drop the deal and buy US-made Patriot missiles instead.

However, the United States continues to condition the supply of the Patriot air defense systems to Turkey on returning the already purchased S-400 systems back to Russia, US Defense Department Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a briefing on Tuesday.

“Turkey is not going to receive a Patriot battery unless it returns the S-400,” Hoffman told reporters, Sputnik reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States has softened its stance on Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense systems and reduced its demands to asking Ankara not to put the weapon on active service. Russia began delivering the S-400 to Turkey in July 2019.

The US has demanded that Turkey cancel all purchases of the S-400, saying it expects Ankara to purchase US-made Patriot air defense systems instead. The US also threatened to delay or cancel any deliveries of the fifth-generation F-35 jets to Turkey. However, Turkey has refused to make any concessions regarding the S-400 purchase. Erdogan said last week that the S-400 would enter service in Turkey in April.

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