© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Power F-16 jet fighter takes off from an airbase throughout CRUZEX, a multinational air train hosted by the Brazilian Air Power, in Natal, Brazil November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photograph
By Humeyra Pamuk, Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration has informed Congress it’s making ready the potential $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, sources accustomed to the matter mentioned on Friday, sparking a right away objection from a senior U.S. lawmaker who has lengthy opposed the deal.
The State Division despatched the casual discover to Congress on Thursday, three sources mentioned, informing committees overseeing arms gross sales within the Senate and Home of Representatives of its intention to proceed with the proposed deal.
NATO member Turkey requested in October 2021 to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE:) F-16 fighters and practically 80 modernization kits for its current warplanes. Technical talks between the 2 sides not too long ago concluded.
The Biden administration has mentioned it helps the sale and has been in contact for months with Congress on an off-the-cuff foundation to win its approval. Nonetheless, it has failed to date to safe a inexperienced mild.
“As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of latest F-16 plane to Turkey,” Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate International Relations Committee, mentioned in a press release.
Whereas the sale continues to be within the casual evaluate course of, Congress can also be unlikely to approve the sale so long as Turkey refuses to proceed with the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
The 2 international locations ended many years of neutrality final Might and utilized to hitch NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however Turkey objected and accused the international locations of harboring militants, together with from the outlawed Kurdistan Staff’ Occasion (PKK), and demanded steps be taken.
At a press convention on Saturday, Ibrahim Kalin – a spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his chief international coverage advisor – mentioned Washington’s calls for referring to the provision of the fighter jets had been “limitless”.
“In the event that they preserve pushing Turkey in different instructions with F-16 (and) F-35 sanctions, after which Turkey reacts, they blame Turkey once more, then that is not a good sport,” Kalin mentioned. “It seems like their listing of calls for is an limitless. There’s at all times one thing.”
HEADING TO WASHINGTON
The notification, first reported by the Wall Road Journal, comes as Turkish International Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu prepares to go to Washington on Wednesday for talks as the 2 NATO allies battle with a bunch of disagreements together with over Syria and weapons purchases.
Following the casual evaluate, throughout which committee leaders can ask questions or elevate considerations concerning the sale, the administration can technically go forward with a proper notification. However a senior U.S. official mentioned he was “uncertain” the administration could be able to proceed until Menendez dropped his objection.
Erdogan was disregarding human rights and democratic norms and interesting in “alarming and destabilizing habits in Turkey and towards neighboring NATO allies,” Menendez mentioned in his assertion.
“Till Erdogan ceases his threats … and begins to behave like a trusted ally ought to, I can’t approve this sale.”
Menendez additionally mentioned he welcomed information of the sale of latest F-35 fighter plane for Greece, referring to Athens as a “trusted NATO ally” and saying the sale “strengthens our two nations’ talents to defend shared rules together with our collective protection, democracy, human rights and the rule of regulation.”
Turkey’s 2019 acquisition of Russian air protection programs resulted in Ankara being kicked out of the next-generation F-35 program and antagonized the U.S. Congress. Disagreements with Washington over Syria coverage and Turkey’s file on human rights and freedom of expression additionally weighs on congressional sentiment.
A State Division spokesperson declined to remark, saying the division doesn’t affirm or touch upon proposed arms gross sales or transfers till the administration has formally requested approval from Congress.
Beneath U.S. regulation, Congress can block a sale by passing a decision of disapproval after a proper notification of a sale, however it’s unlikely to take action if President Joe Biden decides to go forward regardless of lawmakers’ objections. Whereas Congress has handed such resolutions up to now, it has by no means mustered the two-thirds majorities wanted in each chambers to beat a presidential veto.