Türkiye urges US to accelerate sale of F-16s

Türkiye urges US to accelerate sale of F-16s

Türkiye urges US to accelerate sale of F-16s

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Feb. 20 to accelerate the F-16 sale to Türkiye, while objecting to any conditions linking the aircraft issue with the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

“We expect the U.S. sanctions against Türkiye, especially in the defense industry, to be lifted as soon as possible. The U.S. administration supports our request on the F-16 issue. The speedy completion of the process will benefit both parties. We request a prompt notification to Congress on this matter,” Çavuşoğlu said in a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart.

“It will not be possible for us to buy an F-16 dependent on the conditions,” he stressed.

The minister said Ankara was aware of the letters written by some senators to Congress, and the Turkish authorities are also lobbying the congress on the issues. “If we can work on Congress together, I believe we can overcome those challenges together,” he said.

The Biden administration “strongly supports the package for upgrading the current F-16s and providing new ones to Türkiye,” Blinken said for his part.

“Because as a NATO ally and partner, it is in our national interest and in the security interest of the alliance that Türkiye continue to operate in higher standards of NATO to make sure that we have full interoperability,” he added.

The U.S. administration is still working on the issue before notifying Congress of the sale, he said.

“The matter is under process until we formally notify our Congress,” Blinken stated.

Blinken, making his first official visit to Türkiye after taking office, started his trip on Feb. 19 examining the earthquake-hit region with his Turkish counterpart Çavuşoğlu.

“Profoundly saddened to see firsthand the devastation of the earthquakes in Türkiye. The United States remains committed to doing everything we can to help with rescue, relief, and recovery efforts,” Blinken tweeted. He pledged a further $100 million in aid to help the region, bringing the total U.S. support to $185 million. “This is going to be a long-term effort,” Blinken said at Incirlik Air Base in the southern Adana province.

On his second day in Türkiye, Blinken met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the airport before the latter departed for a visit to the quake region.

Finland and Sweden’s NATO bid was among the topics they discussed as Washington seeks Türkiye’s approval before the next summit of the alliance in Vilnius in July.

Blinken urged Ankara to quickly confirm the Nordic states’ NATO accession and said they have already taken “concrete” steps to meet Türkiye’s concerns.

“We strongly support their admission as quickly as possible,” Blinken said.

“Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps to fulfill the commitments they made under the trilateral agreement… We welcome those steps which are significant,” he added.

However, Çavuşoğlu reiterated Türkiye’s position that Ankara could consider the ratification process differently, saying Sweden has to take further steps on the issue of the PKK.

“Sweden conveyed some positive messages, and they have changes in certain laws. Unfortunately, PKK supporters are still present in Sweden. They are recruiting people; they are financing terror acts. Because they don’t want Sweden to become a NATO member,” Çavuşoğlu said.

All parties in NATO must convince Sweden, in particular, to take more action to address Türkiye’s concerns, he said and added, “If Sweden can take some positive steps, then we can convince our parliament, our people and only after that can we allow their membership.”