US approves F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkey after Sweden’s entry into NATO

US officials don’t anticipate Congress blocking either sale to Turkey despite criticism

An F-16 fighter jet takes off during a media day of NATO’s “Air Defender 23” military exercise at Spangdahlem US Air Base near the German-Belgian border in Spangdahlem, Germany June 14, 2023. — Reuters
  • Turkey requested F-16 jets in October 2021.
  • Delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid hindered approval.
  • Congress has 15 days to object to sale after receiving notification.

The United States has approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey after the Turkish parliament this week ratified Sweden’s North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) membership.

The US Department of State on Friday notified Congress of the $23 billion agreement to sell warplanes to NATO ally Turkey and $8.6 billion advanced F-35 fighter jets to Greece.

This comes after Turkey submitted its “instrument of ratification” for Sweden’s NATO accession to Washington and several key Congress members lifted their objections, Al Jazeera reported.

Turkey requested F-16 jets in October 2021, but Ankara’s delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid had hindered congressional approval.

After 20 months, the Turkish parliament ratified Sweden’s bid, and US President Joe Biden urged Congress to approve the F-16 sale “without delay,” Reuters reported.

“My approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 aircrafts has been contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. But make no mistake: This was not a decision I came to lightly,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of four key committees that needs to approve arms transfers.

Turkey needs to urgently improve its human rights record, cooperate better on holding Russia accountable for its invasion in Ukraine and help lower the temperature in the Middle East, Cardin listed.

“My concerns have been strongly and consistently conveyed to the Biden administration as part of our ongoing engagement, and I am encouraged by the productive direction of their discussions with Turkish officials to address these issues,” he said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees scrutinise every major foreign arms sale, frequently raising concerns over human rights or diplomatic issues that could potentially delay or halt such deals.

Congress has 15 days to object to the sale of Turkey, after receiving formal notification from the State Department, and US officials do not anticipate Congress blocking either sale despite criticism.

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