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US Weighs Turkiye’s Jet Sales Amid NATO Expansions

Ankara has appealed to the United States to expedite the sale of F-16 jets, which some US officials believe will persuade Ankara to lift its objections to NATO expansion. However, a key senator is bitterly opposed to the sale.

In his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he intended to discuss his country’s request for modernized F-16 fighter jets.

It is not only important for Turkiye, but also for NATO and the United States, Cavusoglu said.

Therefore, we expect the approval to be in line with our joint strategic interests.

A $20 billion package for Turkiye is expected to include around 40 new F-16 fighter jets.

Turkiye’s historic rival, Greece, with whom tensions have flared over a series of maritime disputes, would also purchase top-of-the-line F-35 jets simultaneously with the sale.

The United States has tried to persuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift objections allowing Sweden and Finland into NATO.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two Nordic nations shed their earlier hesitation to join the Western alliance.

All NATO members must agree, and Erdogan has pressured Sweden and Finland to crack down on Kurdish militants living there.

In his meeting, Blinken called Turkiye a close ally and praised its role in negotiating with Ukraine and Russia to allow grain shipments from the key global breadbasket.

Senator Bob Menendez, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a member of Biden’s Democratic Party, has pledged to block any sale.

Erdogan’s remarks threatening missiles on Athens late last month were “totally unacceptable” and Menendez condemned the ban from politics of Istanbul’s popular mayor, seen earlier as Erdogan’s top challenger in May elections.

Menendez said Erdogan might be acting out of spite or because he is a thug.

“One thing is clear, however – the United States must take the Turkish president’s actions seriously,” he added, vowing to halt the F-16s until Erdogan “halts his campaign of aggression across the region.”

When asked about Menendez’s stance, State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged opposition from lawmakers.

Price noted that Congress also wanted a path forward on NATO.

Congressional support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO is strong, Price said.

Price acknowledged concerns with Turkiye, such as a potential offensive against Syrian Kurds, reconciliation with Bashar Assad, and domestic political freedoms.

“We remain deeply concerned about the judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkiye,” Price stated.

Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program in 2019 after Erdogan made a major arms purchase from Russia, said NATO’s main adversary.

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