Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers urged President Joe Biden’s administration not to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and said they were confident Congress would block any such exports, reported Reuters citing sources in U.S. congress.
Eleven members of the House of Representatives, led by Republican Representative Nicole Malliotakis and Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, wrote a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concern over reports of the F-16 sale to Turkey and said they are confident Congress would block any such purchase.
“One of the reasons Congress insisted on rejecting Turkey from the F-35 program was the significant dangers associated with the S-400 and F-35 merger. Experts note that the upgrade to Block 70 poses similar risks if Ankara continues to own Russian S-400s. Given that upgraded F-16s continue to play an important role for both us and our credible allies, this is a risk that we find unacceptable,” the letter says.
It also notes the indifference shown by the Turkish side to the US Sanctions Enforcement Act (CAATSA). “Less than a year after the CAATSA sanctions were imposed, the Erdogan government has made it clear that it has no intention of complying with US law or addressing the underlying circumstances that led to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.”
“Following President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s September announcement that Turkey will purchase an additional tranche of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, we cannot afford to compromise our national security by sending US-manufactured aircraft to a treaty ally which continues to behave like an adversary,” the lawmakers wrote.
“As long as President Erdogan advances his expansionist project in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will continue to threaten our national security and the security of our closest allies in the region—Greece, Israel and Cyprus.”
“We urge you to act in our national interest and for the sake of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean by refusing to reinforce Turkey’s aging arsenal of fighter jets, and we look forward to receiving your response,” they added.
The US removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program in 2019 over its concerns because of Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
Erdogan had said earlier this month that his country was in talks with the US to buy F-16 fighter jets instead of the F-35.
However, the US did not confirm that it offered Turkey the sale of F-16 fighter jets but said that it has not made Turkey a financing offer for the warplanes.
The Turkish president also stressed that Ankara is determined to recoup $1.4 billion paid to the US for F-35 fighter jets Washington blocked it from buying.
Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, also made by Lockheed Martin, but was removed from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
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