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US Senator Urges For Assurances to Greece and Cyprus Over Turkish F-16 Upgrades

A Turkish F-16, pictured in 2019
A US senator has urged that assurances be made to Greece and Cyprus over Turkish F-16 Upgrades and sales by the US. Credit: CeeGee / CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a prominent member of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has urged a State Department official to secure firm assurances from Turkey regarding their intentions with the sought-after F-16 fighter jet upgrades.

The Senator’s primary concern is to ensure that Turkey commits to not using these upgraded F-16s to violate the airspace of Greece or Cyprus. This call comes in light of regional tensions and aims to safeguard the sovereignty and security of both Greece and Cyprus in the context of the proposed military upgrades.

Although relations have improved in recent months between Athens and Ankara, both countries have experienced a prolonged period of geopolitical tension, with both sides keeping a close eye on the military balance in the Aegean.

US Senator highlights the need for Turkey to affirm that F-16 upgrades will not be used aggressively against Greece and Cyprus

“It seems to me there are only two ways to get at them. One is for the US government to get assurances from Turkey that it will not use these F-16s in violation of the airspace of Greece or any other NATO ally and that they will not use them to attack our Syrian/Kurdish partners. Would you agree these are reasonable requests to make [of them]?” Van Hollen asked James O’Brien, the head of the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination.

The question was posed during a hearing regarding O’Brien’s candidacy to be an Assistant Secretary of State on European and Eurasian Affairs.

“I think, Senator, the clarity of views coming from the Congress has been very helpful as we navigate these issues with our Turkish allies. So I think if we can continue our communication on this we can make sure that the points are raised,” O’Brien answered.

Van Hollen proposed that “the second way” would be for the Biden administration to communicate to members of Congress that “if Turkey were to violate these conditions, there would be consequences.”

Fighter jet upgrades and sales are in sight for Anakra

After months of prolonged political wrangling, it seems that Turkey will attain the F-16 fighter jet upgrades and sales that it has long sought.

Ankara was previously set to purchase the newer and more advanced F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter from the US but was booted from the program after purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia.

Since then, Tukey has instead sought to upgrade and add to its existing fleet of F-16 fourth-generation higher jets, also designed and built by the US. However, pervasive tensions between Turkey and fellow NATO member Greece, as well as Cyprus, have complicated the process, due to concerns that Ankara may use the aircraft to coerce its neighbors.

Now, however, the Biden administration appears prepared to push ahead with F-16 sales to Turkey providing that the latter accepts Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance.

“Turkey is looking to modernize F16 aircraft. And (Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis in Greece is also looking for some help. So what I’m trying to do honestly is to achieve a consortium where we strengthen NATO in terms of the military capability of both Greece and Turkey to allow Sweden to join the Alliance,” Biden said earlier in July ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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