On Wednesday, US Senator Robert Menendez repeated his pledge that he will veto F-16 jet sales to Turkey as long as President Erdogan continues his aggression against neighbors.
Speaking at an online event organized on the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of the “independence” of the Turkish-Cypriot pseudo-state organized by the Coordinating Committee of the Cyprus Struggle (PSEKA), Menendez used harsh language against Turkey under President Erdogan whom he described as a “brutal dictator.”
“As long as I am chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and have a say in the sale of military equipment, I will not agree to sell F-16s to Turkey,” Menendez stressed, adding: “We should not reward a country that is aggressive towards its neighbors.”
Turkey has been seeking to modernize its existing warplanes to update its air force and sought to buy forty Lockheed Martin F-16 jets and nearly eight 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.
Menendez blasts Turkey under Erdogan
Referring to Erdogan, Menendez said: “He calls Cypriots and those who love freedom, enemies. He works with some of the world’s most brutal dictators, from China’s Xi Jinping to Russia’s Putin.”
He also drew parallels between Erdogan and Putin.
“Erdogan sees the illegal annexation of part of Ukraine and takes note,” Menendez maintained. “Because he wants to do the same in northern Cyprus and annex the occupied territories.”
The Senator said he was pleased that US President Joe Biden had decided to end the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus but opposed Biden’s idea to sell Turkey more F-16s to upgrade the Turkish Air Force.
“Today the threat of annexation of the occupied areas in Cyprus must be taken seriously,” he emphasized. “That being said, I do not believe that the US should put the F-16 fighters in the hands of President Erdogan.”
“And that is why, as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I will not approve the sale of any F-16 to Turkey until it stops its campaign of provocations in the wider region,” he said.
President Biden reportedly said 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.
The Turkish Daily Sabah reported that the US President told Erdogan he supports the sale and that he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Turkey’s air force.