US sale of F-16s to Türkiye cannot be conditional: Defense minister
The prospected sale of the F-16s fighter jets by the United States to Türkiye cannot be conditional, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, criticizing the U.S. House of Representatives’ imposition of certain conditions to the process.
“Türkiye is a strong country. There should not be a condition such as ‘I will give you this but you won’t do that with it.’ We continue our talks between our military delegations on the basis of logical parameters. The process is ongoing,” Akar told reporters late on July 19 following the cabinet meeting.
“We will carry out our military, political and diplomatic works. Our wish is that common sense prevails and reasonable and logical solutions are found,” Akar added.
The minister referred to a House of Representatives’ vote last week that obliges the U.S. administration to prove that the sale of 40 F-16s and 80 modernization kits to Türkiye is in the interest of the U.S. and that these warplanes will not be used to violate the Greek airspace.
Türkiye requested to supply F-16s from the U.S. after it was expelled from a joint F-35 fighter jet program due to its deployment of S-400 air defense systems from Russia. The Biden administration endorsed the demand, stressing that it would be required to keep NATO’s southern flank militarily intact and strong.
The House of Representatives’ move came following intense efforts by the Greek lobby and Athens, which is at odds with Ankara over the Aegean. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a visit to Washington in the past months, called on U.S. congressmen not to approve the sale of F-16s to Türkiye.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly reacted to Mitsotakis who made this call to the U.S. Congress only a few weeks after he met Erdoğan in Istanbul, where the two leaders agreed to continue direct dialogue without the participation of the third parties. Türkiye canceled a high-level council meeting with Greece in reaction to the Greek prime minister’s statement.
Akar accused Greece of trying to block Türkiye’s purchase of F-16s although its requests are in line with the ties between Türkiye and the U.S., as well as NATO. “In our meetings, U.S. officials underline that Türkiye is an important ally while NATO officials praise Türkiye’s success in tackling terrorism and migration, along with its importance for the alliance. Given all these, how can one explain [the U.S. Congress’ move]?” Akar asked.
Some lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are manipulating the process through disinformation, Akar said, calling on Washington not to fall into this trap. The allies should be strong to make NATO strong, the defense minister stated, adding, “The military officials are aware of this, and they know our works. And we explicitly express our opinions in all our talks.”