Bob Menendez, the chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would continue to block the sales of F-16 jets to Turkey, after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday that the US administration is preparing to seek congressional approval for a $20 billion sale to Ankara.
Officials in the US administration told the WSJ that the sale of the F-16 jets is contingent on Turkey lifting its veto over Sweden and Finland’s application for NATO membership. The reports on the US government’s plans broke at a time the relations between Ankara and Stockholm got tense over an effigy of the Turkish president which was hung outside the Swedish capital’s city hall during a protest this week and a few days before the Turkish Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington.
The sale to Turkey, which the administration has been considering for more than a year, is larger than expected, including 40 new aircraft as well as more than 900 air-to-air missiles and 800 bombs, the WSJ reported, citing US officials. The administration of US President Joe Biden will also seek a separate sale of next-generation F-35 warplanes to Greece, it said. The WSJ’s report was later confirmed by an official familiar with discussions who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity.
However, the Biden’s administration plans will face the opposition of Menendez who is known for his persistent objection to the sales of F-16 jets to Turkey.
“I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of new F-16 aircraft to Turkey,” said a statement published by Menendez’s office. The senator accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of undermining international law, disregarding human rights and democratic norms, and engaging in alarming and destabilizing behaviour in Turkey and against neighbouring NATO allies.
“Until Erdoğan ceases his threats, improves his human rights record at home — including by releasing journalists and political opposition — and begins to act like a trusted ally should, I will not approve this sale,” he said.
“The prospect of selling fighters to Turkey has bristled some top lawmakers in Biden’s own party, who say they’re concerned about Ankara slow walking the expansion of NATO, incursions into Greek airspace and the nation’s drift toward authoritarianism,” said POLITICO.