"There’s no timetable on the president making a decision with the consultation of the secretary, and I want to give the president and the secretary the space to do that," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
The law mandating sanctions for entities that conduct business with Russian defence firms contains "no timetable" for their implementation, the State Department said Thursday.
"There’s no timetable on the president making a decision with the consultation of the secretary, and I want to give the president and the secretary the space to do that," spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
"I think it's important to remember that Turkey is, of course, a NATO ally. Turkey has worked with us incredibly hard on the fight against ISIS [Daesh] in Syria, and they have many of their own accomplishments to point to there."
Sanctioning NATO ally 'a serious action'
The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which Trump signed into law in 2017, establishes sanctions for entities doing business with Russia's defence industry.
The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal, is used by NATO and other US allies. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft's systems.
Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Trump blames the Obama administration for the current row over its refusal to ink a deal with Turkey to sell it Raytheon's Patriot Missile systems.
Turkey's expulsion from the F-35 project is slated to be completed by the end of March 2020.
"Actions that we have taken thus far are significant," Ortagus said.
"Sanctioning a NATO ally is a very, very serious action and when the president and the secretary are ready to make a determination under CAATSA I will be more than happy to tell you of that," she added.
'Don't alienate NATO ally, Turkey'
Trump reportedly told Republican senators during a closed-door White House meeting on Tuesday that he is not in favour of implementing penalties on Turkey for its acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-air missile system.
Democrats were not invited to the meeting but several Republicans who were present reportedly did not agree with the president's position.
Some of the lawmakers insist the president must impose the penalties stipulated by the law and some others said it was essential not to sour relations with Turkey, an important player in dealings with neighbours Syria and Iraq. Turkey has said that it will retaliate if Washington imposes sanctions over the S-400.
"Turkey is and continues to be a very important country, a very important NATO ally. We have lots of things that we do with them. So you want to send the message but you don't want to alienate them forever," Representative Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, told reporters.
Aides said they did not expect any legislative action before September 9, when lawmakers return from their summer recess.
Trump has repeatedly voiced reluctance to penalise Turkey for the S-400, doing so last week when announcing Ankara's suspension from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
'Don't activate S-400 and avoid sanctions'
President Trump reportedly told Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator who was at the White House meeting, to persuade Turkey not to activate the S-400 systems in order to avoid the sanctions.
"I’m in the camp of, if they don’t activate the S-400, the sanctions don’t have to be applied. My hope is to persuade Turkey not to active the system because it’s so disruptive to the relationship," Graham told Defense One, a US-based media outlet that focuses on defence and national security.
“My pitch to Turkey was: Let’s stand down on the S-400, let’s start free trade agreement negotiations, which would change the Turkish economy, would help the American economy, will give us a much closer economic relationship,” Graham said.
“They’ve had to be removed from the F-35 program, that’s a $10 billion loss. If there was a free trade agreement negotiation that resulted in a product it would fundamentally change Turkey’s economy. What I’m asking for is cooler heads to prevail.”
Ankara numerous times stated that Turkey will actively use the Russian air-shield systems to counter threats to the country.
The delivery of S-400 components began on July 12 and is set to continue through April 2020.