The US State Department has approved the possible sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system to Turkey, Reuters reported, citing the Pentagon.
Congress has been notified of the proposed sale, which is aimed at improving Turkey’s air and missile defense capabilities.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the State Department had approved the sale of 80 Patriot guidance-enhanced missiles and 60 other missiles to Ankara along with related equipment, including radar sets, engagement control stations and launching stations.
The State Department said the deal “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a key NATO Ally on the front lines of the fight against terrorism,” according to the AP.
Earlier this year the State Department had said it was working with NATO ally Turkey on the possible sale of a Raytheon Co. Patriot missile defense system to keep it from buying a Russian-made S-400 system.
But twice in Turkey’s selection process, Ankara passed over the Patriot system, first choosing a Chinese system before turning to the Russian S-400 system in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Wednesday Russia was pressing ahead with a contract to deliver the S-400 missile air defense systems to Turkey despite the US State Department approving the possible sale of the Patriot system to Ankara.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian and US transactions should be seen as separate from each other and that Russia was in the process of fulfilling the terms of the deal to supply Ankara with S-400s.
“These are not connected processes. In this case, we are fulfilling agreements that we have with our Turkish colleagues. You know that the contract is being fulfilled. This will be continued,” Peskov said.
US and NATO officials have repeatedly warned Ankara that the Russian system cannot be integrated into the NATO air and missile defense system and that purchasing the S-400 system would jeopardize Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in Washington imposing sanctions.
The notification process alerts Congress that a sale to a foreign country has been approved, but it does not indicate that a contract has been signed or negotiations have concluded.