Greek-American Congressman Gus Bilirakis, (R-FL) along with Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) and Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH), led a group of colleagues in writing a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently opposing US plans to sell Turkey F-16s.
They also demanded information from the State Department following recent reports of a request from Turkey to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and dozens of modernization kits for its existing warplanes from the United States.
The request comes after the canceling of the US’ F-35 deal with Turkey in 2019 after that nation purchased the S-400 missile system from Russia, which is contrary to NATO guidelines.
Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Carolyn Moloney, Chris Pappas lead fight against F-16 deal
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, “In October it was reported that Turkey requested to purchase ‘40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.’
“On October 17, Turkish President Erdogan told reporters that the United States ‘has proposed the sale of a batch of F-16 fighter jets’ but the reported sale has yet to be confirmed.
The letter addressed to Blinken stated “We have noted that your Department has declined to answer questions about the LOR, citing policy of not commenting before Congress has been notified of the LOR. We believe that the widespread reporting on Turkey’s request, as well as President Erdogan’s own statements, provide us sufficient basis to declare our opposition to this potential sale.
“We share your goal of a Turkey that is rooted to the West, but we will not achieve that goal if the Erdogan government escapes accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance,” continued the lawmakers.
For the past several years, Turkey has engaged in a pattern of increasingly provocative behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean, encroaching on Cypriot and Greek territorial waters with its drilling ships, purportedly searching for oil and gas.
At times, Turkey even escorted them with ships from the Turkish Navy. In addition, its Coast Guard harassed and threatened Greek fishing boats on the open seas. At one point, Turkish president Erdogan redrew the map of the Mediterranean and Turkey itself, calling the Aegean Sea the “Sea of Islands” and a greater Turkey, including Greek islands, dubbed the “Blue Homeland.”
Bilirakis and colleagues ask for State Department notification of any deal
Gus Bilirakis and his philhellene colleagues in the House have railed against these incursions and repeated acts of harassment in the past. In their recent letter they state that they request from the State Department to receive a formal notification of any Turkish LOR, the specifics of such an LOR, the Administration’s position on such an LOR, and responses to their specific objections.
The effort to prevent the sale of F-16s to Turkey is supported by the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the Armenian National Committee of America, the American Friends of Kurdistan, the Hindu American Foundation, the Middle East Forum, the American Jewish Committee, PSEKA, the American Hellenic Institute, the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, and the Armenian Council of America.
“Turkey’s illegal and unfettered actions are indicative of President Erdogan’s transformation of Turkey to a rogue state led by a leader with a nationalistic philosophy, Neo-Ottoman ambitions, and a complete disregard for following international law,” said Congressman Bilirakis.
“Erdogan continues to violate American law (the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA), which alone makes Turkey ineligible for new F16s. But beyond his violation of CAATSA, he also acts contrary to American interests, with his dangerous behavior contributing to the instability of the region. For all these reasons, we absolutely should not sell Turkey F-16s.”
“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, I am proud to join Rep. Pappas in opposing any transfer of such advanced and sensitive military equipment to Turkey,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “Turkey’s purchase and use of Russian S-400 missile systems in defiance of NATO standards and U.S. law, decades-long violations of the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereignty, and increasingly destabilizing behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and West Asia clearly demonstrate that sales of advanced U.S. military equipment like the F-16 and associated modernization kits must stop.”
In response to the sending of the letter, Endy Zemenides, the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, stated “I would like to commend Representatives Pappas, Bilirakis and Maloney for leading their colleagues in asserting Congress’ role in U.S. foreign policy.
“Congress forced the Trump Administration to do the right thing regarding Turkey and F35s, and now has to make sure no one in the Biden Administration tries to circumvent U.S. law and Congressional intent. Until Turkey decides to honor U.S. interests, U.S. values, and U.S. law, it should not get F-16s or any other American weapons.”
Philip Christopher, the President of the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) stated that “Turkey has proven to be an unreliable ally and is in violation of numerous UN Resolutions concerning the continued occupation of Cyprus. It has jeopardized the security of the United States and NATO.”
Diliman Abdulkader, the Co-founder and Spokesperson of the group American Friends of Kurdistan, lent his support to Bilirakis and his colleagues, stating that his group “applauds the members of Congress who have taken a just and critical stance on preventing Turkey from attaining additional F-16 fighter jets and upgrades.
“The United States had saved many civilian lives when it removed Turkey from the F-35 program, the United States would be saving many more lives if it prevents Turkey from modernizing and expanding its current F-16 fleet. Turkey has done enough damage to the region with the weapons it already holds, and this step is decisive to keeping the region secure. The F-16s will undoubtedly be used against the Kurds across the region, we must do everything we can to prevent this.”
Back in 2017, President Trump signed into law the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), legislation which imposes sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea and includes sanctions specifically targeting and designed to undermine Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.
Despite the intent of Congress being abundantly clear, Turkey announced that it would purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system from Russia. Despite nearly three years of attempts to find a solution that would prevent Turkey from being in violation of CAATSA, that country persisted with its acquisition and activation of the Russian S-400s and CAATSA sanctions were subsequently imposed.