Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that he would not approve any F-16 sales to Turkey until President Tayyip Erdogan halts his campaign of aggression across the region.
He was responding to the news that 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 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA amendment is only one tool at our disposal to advance US interests in the Eastern Med, he added.
An #NDAA amendment is only one tool at our disposal to advance US interests in the Eastern Med.
Let me be clear: as #SFRC Chairman, I will not approve any F-16 case for Turkey until Erdogan halts his campaign of aggression across the region. Full stop. https://t.co/lMkKaMatuN
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) October 12, 2022
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.
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.
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.