US President Donald Trump has reportedly asked Republican senators to take a softer approach to Turkey over its decision to purchase the Russian S-400 missile defense system, saying that he would like time to talk Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan out of the deal, NBC News reported on Wednesday night.
Citing sources who attended a meeting at the White House on Tuesday between Trump and 46 Republican lawmakers, NBC said the US president “tried to convince the GOP senators to give him space to cut a deal with Erdogan instead of adopting sanctions.”
“I think he would like more flexibility,” Senator John Cornyn was quoted as saying.
Trump reportedly told the lawmakers that he wants to try “use his relationship with Erdogan” to bring the Turkish leader around to American concerns that the installation of a Russian system is incompatible with Turkey's NATO commitments and would give Moscow access to highly sensitive military information.
“He would like a little more room, as the executive, to work through these issues,” NBC quoted Senator Kevin Cramer as saying after the meeting with Trump.
Erdogan has warned of retaliation if the United States moves ahead with sanctions that have already been passed by Congress, with sources cited in the report suggesting that the Turkish president has threatened to pull his country out of NATO and to kick the US out of Incirlik, an air base that has been critical to American operations in Syria, if the US Senate approves the measures.
Tuesday's meeting reportedly ended without an agreement between Trump and his lawmakers, and there are still “tensions within the family,” NBC News quoted a senator as saying.