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Biden Supports F-16 Sale to Turkey, Ankara Claims

Biden Erdogan Turkey F-16s
President Biden reportedly said that he will continue to support Turkey’s F-16 fighter jet purchase. Credit: Turkish Presidency

US President Joe Biden reportedly said that he will continue to support Turkey’s F-16 fighter jets purchase at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday.

Turkish Daily Sabah reports that the US President told Erdogan that he supports the sale and that he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Turkey’s air force.

No mention of the F-16s discussion between Biden and Erdogan

However, the official White House readout on the meeting between the two leaders does not mention a discussion on the F-16s.

It says:

“President Biden expressed his deep condolences to President Erdogan and the people of Turkiye on the acts of violence in Istanbul and made clear we stand with our NATO Ally.

“President Biden expressed his appreciation to President Erdogan for his efforts to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which they both agreed has been critical to improving global food security amid Russia’s war and that the Initiative must continue.

“The two also discussed continued close coordination on NATO Alliance issues, and other issues of regional and global concern,” the readout concludes.

Turkey is optimistic that Biden can convince Congress on F-16s

The process of the US approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey is going well and could be completed within a couple of months, Ankara said recently.

Turkey has been seeking to modernize its existing warplanes to update its air force and sought to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits from the U.S. after the purchase of F-35s fell through.

Talks on the deal were expected to gain pace after the US midterm elections.

In October the U.S. Senate reportedly dropped two important amendments for the potential sale of F-16 jets to Turkey from its version of the annual defense spending bill.

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.

Responding to the news, Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he would not approve any F-16 sales to Turkey until President Erdogan halts his campaign of aggression across the region.

Menendez is likely to retain his position as Chairman of the powerful Committee after the Democrats won control of the Senate in the midterm elections.

Opposition to the sale of F-16s to Turkey

Turkey made a request in October 2021 to the US 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.

Recently Greek-American Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) said that Republicans have not supported the F-16 sale to Turkey, as President Erdogan claimed during his visit to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly.

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