A group of United States senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to hold off on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara ratifies Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships.
“Failure to ratify the protocols or present a timeline for ratification threatens the Alliance’s unity at a key moment in history, as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the 27 US senators wrote in a letter to Biden. “Congress cannot consider future support for Turkey, including the sale of F-16 fighter jets until Turkey completes ratification of the accession protocols,” they added.
Turkey requested to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes in October 2021.
During a visit to Washington in January, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s stance on the Nordic countries’ NATO bid should not affect the sale of the fighter jets and urged the Biden administration to convince Congress to drop its opposition to a planned deal worth $20 billion.
Turkey will not be able to receive F-16 fighter jets from the United States until it approves Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bid, said US Senator Chris Van Hollen recently.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened the United States in a speech last week that if the NATO partner wouldn’t keep its promises, it would “have to pay the price”.
In the same speech, after threatening the United States with far-reaching consequences regarding the fighter jets that Turkey has been expecting for over a year, Erdoğan stated that his government was ready to look for other allies for Turkey. “We told them that we are planning tripartite talks with Russia, Syria and Turkey. We can also include Iran,” said the Turkish President.
Some analysts interpreted the attempt to ally with international enemies of the US as a part of Erdoğan’s threat about F-16s.
Of the 30 members of NATO, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the membership of Sweden and Finland. The two Nordic states applied for NATO membership together in May 2022 amidst security concerns due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hungary has committed to ratification when its legislators reconvene in February.
In exchange for ratifying Sweden’s membership, Turkey demands more action from Sweden, particularly against Kurdish groups it sees as terrorists, including members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and allied groups in Syria, as well as the extradition of dozens.
Turkey suspended talks with Sweden in January citing that the Nordic country did not do enough to address Turkey’s demands.