The U.S. Senate has dropped two important amendments for the potential sale of F-16 jets to Turkey from its version of the annual defense spending bill, it emerged on Tuesday.
The amendments, introduced by Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris van Hollen, were seen as restricting the sale of the jets to Turkey.
The first amendment required the American president to certify that “such a transfer is in the national interest of the United States” and requires “concrete steps taken to ensure that such F-16s are not used by Turkey for repeated unauthorized territorial overflights of Greece.”
The second amendment created additional conditions for Turkey to purchase or modernize its F-16 fighter jets, also relating to Ankara’s efforts to undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces and requiring its ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession.
The Senate formally kicked off debate Tuesday on the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass $817 billion bill-setting policy for the Pentagon.
The Senate is out of session until after the November 8th mid-term elections. The fiscal 2023 NDAA must pass the Senate and House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.
Greece responds to the U.S. Senate’s drop of amendments
Nobody can make presumptions regarding the final outcome of the debate in the U.S. Senate on the 2023 U.S. defense budget, stated government spokesperson Yiannis Economou on Wednesday.
Commenting on the main opposition SYRIZA-PA’s announcement regarding the bill, he noted that the balance of power in the field with Turkey has changed in Greece’s favor due to the government’s deisions.
“SYRIZA’s press office and the Turkish News Agency Anadolu are seeking to present a stage in the process of debating the bill as an accomplished fact,” Economous said. It is “an affair for which nobody can presume to say with certainty either the time or, more importantly, on what terms, it will end.”
Opposition to the sale of F-16s to Turkey
Turkey made a request in October 2021 to the U.S. to buy forty Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly eighty modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
The proposed sale of F-16 fighters to Turkey has met with opposition by U.S. lawmakers and Greek diaspora organizations.
In May, seven prominent organizations wrote to the U.S. Congress to express their alarm and concern that the Department of State is considering selling the jets.
“Turkey is recklessly risking war within NATO,” Endy D. Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, had said. “To grant them new and upgraded F-16s would be equally reckless. Any American arms sales to Ankara must at a minimum be restricted to prevent their use in a way that risks conflict with Greece.”
The move followed a 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.
Last month, Greek-American Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) said that Republicans have not supported the F-16 sale to Turkey, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed during his visit to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly.
Bilirakis, who has campaigned in Congress with other lawmakers opposing the US plans to sell Turkey F-16s, said that “perhaps Erdogan is confusing his dreams with reality.”