The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the departure of Senator Bob Menendez as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying that Turkey’s chances of acquiring F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. have been boosted.
Menendez who has been indicted on corruption charges has been a vocal opponent of Turkey receiving aircraft to update its fighter fleet.
“One of our most important problems regarding the F-16s were the activities of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez against our country,” Erdogan told journalists on a flight back from Azerbaijan on Monday.
“Menendez’s exit gives us an advantage but the F-16 issue is not an issue that depends only on Menendez,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan sees opportunity after Menendez’s stepping down
Ankara has been seeking to buy 40 new F-16s, as well as kits to upgrade its existing fleet. The request was backed by the White House but ran into opposition in Congress, where Menendez raised concerns about Turkey’s human rights records as well as blaming Ankara for fractious relations with neighboring Greece.
Referring to talks between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in recent days, Erdogan said: “It would be beneficial to turn this situation into an opportunity and meet with (Blinken) again.
“In this way, we may have the opportunity to accelerate the process regarding the F-16s. Not only on the F-16s, but on all other issues, Menendez and those with his mindset are carrying out obstructive activities against us.”
According to the Justice Department prosecutors, Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Arslanian received substantial bribes in exchange for aid to Egypt’s government.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday that Mr. Menendez had decided to step down as chairman of the influential committee “until the matter has been resolved.”
Insisting he would not resign after being indicted on corruption charges, the embattled New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez told reporters that $480,000 in cash found in a safe, clothing and closets at his home was kept there for emergency personal use.
“For 30 years,” Menendez said, “I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings accounts, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
To those who have called for his resignation, he said: “The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system.
“Those who rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible. Remember, prosecutors get it wrong.”
Menendez an outspoken critic of Turkey’s Erdogan
Menendez has often criticized Turkey under the leadership of Erdogan and has supported Greece and Cyprus publicly.
Menendez stressed the significance of strengthening U.S.-Greek relations and mentioned key legislative efforts, such as the Eastern Mediterranean Security & Energy Partnership Act and the US-Greece Defense & Interparliamentary Partnership Act.
He also noted the importance of reducing regional dependence on fossil fuels, promoting security, and fostering prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.