U.S. President Donald Trump informed Republican lawmakers during a closed-door White House meeting he does not want to sanction NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air system, according to multiple reports published Wednesday.
The position voiced Tuesday is at odds with that of several of Trump's closest Republican Senate allies who do not have "much appetite for that position," CNN reported citing an anonymous Republican source.
They insist the president must impose the penalties under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which establishes penalties for entities doing business with Russia's defense industry, and which Trump signed into law in 2017.
The meeting with 45 Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Todd Young in the State Dining Room lasted roughly 70 minutes.
Trump has repeatedly voiced reluctance to penalize Turkey for the S-400 system, doing so last week when announcing Ankara's suspension from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.The Trump administration has maintained that the S-400 could expose the advanced fighter to possible Russian subterfuge, and is incompatible with NATO systems.
Turkey, however, maintains the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
The expulsion is slated to be completed by the end of March 2020.
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.
Analysts told CNN Trump has little room to avoid imposing sanctions under the 2017 law.
A Republican aide told the broadcast news network that Trump could have some room to maneuver given that the S-400 is slated to take months to be fully delivered.
The Washington Post newspaper separately reported that Trump was proposing negotiations with Turkey in lieu of the sanctions, a proposal at odds with the position held by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch.
The disagreement marks a rare split between the two who are otherwise staunch allies.
The delivery of S-400 components began on July 12 and is set to continue through April 2020.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington, D.C.