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Senate Approves Ban On Sale Of U.S. F-35s To Turkey Over Russia Deal

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet is seen in its hanger in the U.S. state of Maryland.

The U.S. Senate has passed a major defense bill that would block the sale of U.S. F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless it abandons a deal to buy S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.

The legislation, passed by 85 to 10 late on June 18, also contains a provision to block President Donald Trump's deal with China to allow the telecommunications giant ZTE to stay in business despite violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The two provisions targeting Turkey and ZTE are part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes over $700 billion in defense spending on military programs and weapons.

The House of Representatives has passed its own version of the bill, and the two measures must now be reconciled before a compromise measure can be passed and sent to Trump for his signature or veto.

Both the Senate and House have seen bipartisan efforts to stop the sale of the most advanced U.S. fighter jet to Turkey, a NATO ally that has an increasingly strained relationship with Washington.

Turkey is currently one of the partner countries in the F-35 program and had plans to buy about 100 of the stealth jets, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Senate bill would prevent delivery of the jets unless Trump certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia, or detaining U.S. citizens.

NATO officials have repeatedly warned Turkey that the Russian S-400 systems it agreed to buy in 2016 are not compatible with NATO defenses, but Turkey has largely dismissed those concerns and proceeded with the Russian deal.

U.S. legislators in approving the provision also have cited concerns about Ankara's warming ties with Moscow under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his arrest of U.S. citizens and consulate staff as part of a purge of his opponents since an aborted coup against him in July 2016.

The Senate defense bill's provision to kill Trump's agreement to allow ZTE to resume purchases from U.S. technology companies so that it can stay in business is not included in the House version of the bill, which has a narrower ban on the Defense Department using equipment or services from ZTE or fellow Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Republicans and Democrats expressed national security concerns about ZTE after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who had admitted to a conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions by selling sensitive equipment to Iran and North Korea.

Under the Trump deal, ZTE would have to pay another $1 billion in fines for its sanctions violations in exchange for the United States dropping an earlier ban on its purchases of equipment from U.S. suppliers, which the company contended would put it out of business.

The move to block Trump's deal caused a plunge of almost 17 percent in ZTE's stock value in the first few minutes of trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on June 19. The company's stock has fallen by about 60 percent as a result of the U.S. debate over its future.

With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP, and Reuters