U.S. crafting waivers to continue arms sales to Turkey

By Tony Bertuca / October 15, 2019 at 5:44 PM

The State Department plans to craft waivers to continue U.S. arms sales to Turkey, despite escalating diplomatic tensions and economic sanctions over Ankara's ongoing military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, according to a senior defense official.

The official said the Pentagon expects the waivers soon so that "official business" between the United States and Turkey -- a NATO ally -- can continue.

Proponents of the arms sales have said Turkey would go to Russia for its weapons if the United States does not allow them to continue.

U.S. relations with Turkey hit a speed bump earlier this year when the Turks were booted from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program over their purchase of a Russian-made missile system.

However, other nations, including the United Kingdom, have suspended all arms sales to Turkey over fears the weapons could be used in the Syrian conflict.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said he intends to discuss the situation in Syria with other NATO allies next week at a meeting in Brussels.

Meanwhile, congressional members from both parties have argued President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria gave Turkey license to attack Kurdish forces that helped the United States fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.