Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Wednesday that the Turkish government had appealed to US President Joe Biden to convince the Congress to drop its opposition to a planned deal worth $20 billion over modernisation kits for Turkey’s ageing F-16 fighter jet fleet.
“What is important here is whether the administration stands firm or not,” Çavuşoğlu said, following a meeting with his US counterpart Antony Blinken, where the pair discussed the F-16 issue and Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO. “If they do, the issue will be resolved.”
The two issues are not related, and Turkey’s stance on the Nordic countries’ NATO bid should not affect F-16 decisions, Çavuşoğlu told Blinken. There are several key members of the US Congress who object to the sale of the modernisation kits to Turkey, in the aftermath of the NATO member country’s removal from the fifth generation F-35 fighter jet development program in 2019, upon Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems.
President Biden himself supports the sale despite the opposition and despite US reservations over Turkey’s human rights record and foreign policy, particularly in Syria, to maintain a united NATO allegiance against Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
The US State Department announced in a statement released after the meeting agreement between Blinken and Çavuşoğlu on several key points, including a “commitment to a concrete and results-oriented positive bilateral agenda” and a discussion of “strengthening the U.S.-Türkiye defense partnership, including modernization of Türkiye’s F-16 fleet”.
Both parties reiterated a commitment to a Syrian-led political process in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Turkey seeks to exclude Syrian Kurds from the discussions on the future of the country, which has led to fruitless talks since 2017.
While Ankara holds Kurdish forces responsible for a bombing in Istanbul on 13 November and frequently cites is as a reason for a new military incursion into Kurdish-held northern Syria, US officials holds such operations would harm the ongoing efforts against the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS).