Greek-American groups launched a campaign on Thursday to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey after the Biden administration signaled that the sale would serve US national security interests.
The campaign follows the letter sent by the State Department to the US Congress in March according to which the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would serve US national security interests and NATO’s long-term unity, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey made a request in October to the US to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
The March 17th letter, first reported by Reuters, is signed by the State Department’s top legislative official, Naz Durakoglu, and is addressed to Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone.
The correspondence followed efforts made by 50 bipartisan lawmakers in February, led by Pallone, urging the Biden administration to reject Ankara’s purchase of the F-16s, over what they said was Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s lack of commitment to NATO and his “vast human rights abuses.”
In her reply, Durakoglu acknowledged the ongoing tensions with Turkey but also highlighted Ankara’s support for, and defense ties with Ukraine as “an important deterrent to malign influence in the region.”
“The Administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests, as well as U.S. national security, economic and commercial interests that are supported by appropriate U.S. defense trade ties with Turkey,” the letter said.
No jets for Turkey campaign
Using the hashtag #NoJetsForTurkey, the campaign urges US citizens to petition their senators to ask that they oppose Turkey’s request.
“Turkey is an unreliable ally that has already been barred from such purchases because of its purchase of Russian air defense systems. We need to make sure Turkey cannot purchase F-16s or upgrade kits until it shows compliance with US and international law,” the campaign says.
“Not only did Turkey purchase a Russian missile defense system in direct opposition to NATO’s interests, but it also continues its illegal occupation of Cyprus and its constant threats against Greece’s airspace and territory. In short, Turkey’s behavior in the region should not be rewarded with such a sale,” it has been stated.
The campaign also maintains that “the sale of F-16s or upgrade kits to Turkey would set a dangerous precedent.”
The campaign is endorsed by ten organizations, including the Hellenic American Leadership Council, Armenian National Committee of America, International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), American Hellenic Council of California, American Friends of Kurdistan, Hindu American Foundation, Middle East Forum, Philos Project, A Demand for Action, and In Defense of Christians.
Lawmakers opposed to F-16 sale to Turkey
In January, 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 opposing US plans to sell Turkey F-16s.
“I personally am not supportive of giving them F-16s,” Menendez told Air Force Magazine.
“I just really have a problem,” he said, adding that “this is not the Turkey that we aspire for, is not the type of NATO ally that is behaving in a way that we should be able to go ahead and give it some of the most sophisticated fighting equipment.”