The US House of Representatives voted on Thursday on legislation that would create a new obstacle for President Joe Biden’s plan to sell new-generation F-16 jets and modernisation kits to Turkey.
Lawmakers, by a margin of 244-179, approved the measure, offered by Democratic representatives Frank Pallone and Chris Pappas, as an amendment to the annual National Defence Authorisation Act.
The amended act will have to be approved by the Senate and then signed by Biden to go into force. Revisions to the bill in its current form are all but certain.
As it stands, the amendment would bar the sale or transfer of fighter jets to Turkey unless it can be shown to be essential for US national security, and obtain guarantees that the aircraft won’t be used against Greece, for instance in unauthorised overflights.
US lawmakers also sent a letter to Biden on 8 June expressing opposition to the potential sale of F-16s and mechanical upgrades to Turkey because of “vast human rights abuses committed at home and abroad” by the administration of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Biden had said during the NATO summit in Spain on 30 June that he is confident the congressional approval needed for the sale can be obtained.
In April, the US State Department also said a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be in line with US national security interests and would also serve NATO’s long-term unity.
Turkey seeks to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing fleet. The NATO member state was removed from the fifth generation F-35 stealth fighter jet programme over its 2019 purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, which Washington maintains pose a security risk to NATO architecture.