Ben Cardin, the new chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday he would look at Turkey’s request for the F-16 fighter jets.
“I need to talk to the administration on a lot of these issues, because it’s beyond just one issue involved, and I need to understand that,” Cardin told reporters, one day after he took over leadership of the influential panel.
Cardin, the replacement of Bob Menendez, said he had discussed Sweden’s NATO accession with Turkish officials at a NATO ambassador’s meeting on Wednesday.
“They claim that will be done in the first part of next month,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
“If that is in fact true, then at least we have the NATO issue resolved, but there are other issues in addition to just NATO accession that need to be part of our discussions as we move forward.”
Menendez had blocked the sale for months, over Turkey’s objections to Sweden joining NATO but also over President Tayyip Erdogan’s human rights record and overflights of the airspace of neighboring Greece.
Senate rules forced Menendez to step down as leader of the committee after being accused in a federal indictment of trading off his Senate position to enrich himself with cash, gold bars and a luxury car.
Prosecutors have said Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for using their influence to interfere with law enforcement probes of three New Jersey businessmen and aid the Egyptian government.
They pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday.
Turkey hopes that the new Senate chair will unlock F-16 deal
Earlier in the week, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the departure of 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.
“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. 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 and blamed Ankara for fractious relations with neighboring Greece.
Menendez has often criticized Turkey under the leadership of Erdogan and has supported Greece and Cyprus publicly.
He stressed the significance of strengthening U.S.-Greek relations and referred to key legislative efforts, such as the Eastern Mediterranean Security & Energy Partnership Act and the US-Greece Defense & Interparliamentary Partnership Act.
Menendez also noted the importance of reducing regional dependence on fossil fuels, promoting security, and fostering prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.