© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An F-16 fighter jet takes off throughout a media day of NATO’s “Air Defender 23” army train at Spangdahlem U.S. Air Base close to the German-Belgian border in Spangdahlem, Germany June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Jana Rodenbusch/File Photograph
By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday formally knowledgeable Congress of its intention to proceed with the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, taking a significant step towards finishing a long-delayed course of that examined ties with Ankara.
The State Division despatched the notification to advance the sale of 40 Lockheed Martin (NYSE:) F-16s and practically 80 modernization kits to Turkey, a day after Ankara absolutely accomplished ratification of the NATO membership of Sweden, a transfer that grew to become immediately linked to the jet gross sales.
The Biden administration concurrently superior the sale of 20 Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter jets to fellow NATO ally Greece, an $8.6-billion deal that Washington superior because it tries to strike a steadiness between two alliance members with a historical past of tense relations.
Turkey first made the request for the jets in October 2021, however Ankara’s delay in approving the ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid had been a significant impediment to profitable congressional approval for the sale.
Following 20 months of delay, the Turkish parliament earlier this week ratified Sweden’s NATO bid, and subsequently U.S. President Joe Biden wrote a letter to key congressional committee leaders, urging them to approve the F-16 sale “at once.”
The State Division’s Friday evening notification got here solely a day after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gave his last sign-off on Sweden’s ratification, and hours after the instrument of accession was delivered to Washington.
“My approval of Turkey’s request to buy F-16 aircrafts has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. However make no mistake: This was not a call I got here to calmly,” mentioned Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, one among 4 key committees that should approve arms transfers.
Turkey must urgently enhance its human rights document, cooperate higher on holding Russia accountable for its invasion in Ukraine and assist decrease the temperature within the Center East, Cardin listed.
“My considerations have been strongly and persistently conveyed to the Biden administration as a part of our ongoing engagement, and I’m inspired by the productive course of their discussions with Turkish officers to handle these points,” he mentioned.
Leaders of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee and Home of Representatives Overseas Affairs committees assessment each main overseas arms sale. They usually ask questions or elevate considerations over human rights or diplomatic points that may delay or cease such offers.
Following the switch of the formal notification by the State Division, the Congress has 15 days to object to the sale, after which it’s thought of last.
U.S. officers don’t anticipate the Congress to dam both sale, regardless of criticism of Turkey by some members.