"F-16 contract depends on Turkey's support for NATO expansion and Syria"

"F-16 contract depends on Turkey's support for NATO expansion and Syria"
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James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Ankara, said Turkey must stop blocking the addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO to get congressional approval of the F-16 deal

Any likely U.S. congressional support for Turkey's request for the U.S. purchase of F-16 fighter jets will depend on Turkey's cooperation in welcoming Finland and Sweden to NATO and halting preparations for a military incursion into Northern Syria, said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Ankara.

Both issues are expected to be high on the agenda at talks in Washington when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets Foreign Minister Antony Blinken on Wednesday.

Turkey has submitted an official request to purchase 40 F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization packages from the United States in 2021. Biden administration officials have expressed support for the proposed sale, subject to congressional approval.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the administration is preparing to begin consultations with Congress to seek approval for the $20 billion sale.

"The opposition in the Senate will probably require senior levels of the administration weighing in with security arguments. I'm not sure they ready to go that far, but I cannot imagine them doing a whole lot to help Turkey get F-16s if we don't see movement on those two issues," Jeffrey, who currently chairs the Middle East program at the Wilson Center, said in an interview with the Voice of America.

Twenty-eight members of NATO have already ratified Sweden and Finland's admission to the alliance, but Turkey and Hungary have not yet done so. Hungary has announced it will do so in early February, leaving Turkey as the sole holdout.


Efforts at reconciliation between Turkey and the Syrian government are also expected to come up at the Washington talks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu recently said he could meet with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, in February.

The United States has already made its position clear, saying it does not support countries that "upgrade" their relations with the Assad regime in Syria.

The Wilson Center's Jeffrey, who also served as the State Department's special representative for engagement in Syria until 2020, argues that the Syrian president is unwilling to make any deals and that the talks are being driven by Russia "without compromise on the security situation in Syria or the return of refugees," two major concerns from Turkey's perspective.

"We should not read anything into this, especially with the upcoming elections in Turkey. I would rather wait until after the elections to see what Turkish policy really looks like," Jeffrey told VOA.