F-16 not the only option for Türkiye: Defense minister

F-16 not the only option for Türkiye: Defense minister

Abdullah Karakuş-KARS
F-16 not the only option for Türkiye: Defense minister

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the F-16 fighter jets are not the only option for Ankara if the U.S. Congress put obstacles before the sales of the aircraft.

“We expect common sense to prevail, for the United States to evaluate the issue as a whole and decide, and act accordingly,” daily Milliyet quoted Akar as saying on Feb. 5.

“Our friends from the parliament are also holding talks in Congress. Our motto is ‘Strong Türkiye, strong [Turkish Armed Forces] TAF, strong NATO, strong Alliance.’ We also say that the F-16 is not the only option,” he added.

Upon the Turkish government’s request in late 2021, Ankara and Washington negotiated the sale of 40 new F-16 warfighters and 79 modernization kits after Türkiye was excluded from the joint F-35 fifth-generation fighter jet program due to its deployment of Russian S-400 air defense systems. The process is awaiting the approval of Congress, which will also decide on the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece.

The minister criticized Sweden for not meeting the “necessities” of a tripartite memorandum for its NATO bid and also for allowing Quran-burning protests in the country.

“As they do not comply with the memorandum, heinous attacks are carried out against Türkiye, the president of Türkiye, a NATO member for 71 years, and the Holy Quran, the symbol of the faith of billions of people. What kind of logic is this? What kind of law is this?” he asked.

These acts get on the nerves of Türkiye, he said and added, “This is what Europe has done to us: They are trying to kick us under the table.”

Elaborating on the new dialogue process with Syria, Akar said Ankara, Moscow and Damascus will convene a new meeting of delegations from defense ministries and intelligence organizations of the three countries in February.

Elaborating on the Turkish military’s presence in northern Syria, Akar said, “About a third of Syria’s territory is under the control of terrorists. We tell them, ‘We are dealing with these terrorists, you should deal with them too.’ Let’s say we withdraw from Syria, who will stop the terrorists, who will prevent the migration there? We cannot leave our survival to the possibilities.”

Criticizing the objections to Türkiye’s new dialogue with Syria, the minister indirectly referred to the U.S. and said Washington is in touch with the YPG, while it is critical of contact between Ankara and Damascus.

“When we get in touch with Syria, some stand up and ask, how can you talk.’ On the other hand, you are meeting with an extension of a structure that you recognize as a terrorist organization. You are with the terrorists who killed 40.000 of our citizens. How does such a thing happen?” he asked.

“You come from 10,000 km away and say, ‘This is our survival problem, we want to destroy terrorism in Afghanistan at its source.’ How can we remain ignorant of terrorist activities and terrorists nearby?” he said, referring to the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan in previous years.

The grain corridor process is running smoothly, the minister said, stressing that they were able to reach a balance among parties in carrying out the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

In the upcoming weeks, six Turkish vessels waiting in Ukrainian ports will arrive Türkiye, he added.

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