Turkey expects swift completion of US approval process on F-16s

Turkey expects swift completion of US approval process on F-16s
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Turkey’s top brass said Ankara has seen positive approach from Washington from the very beginning on this issue

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara expects a swift completion of the US approval process on F-16 sales.

“Based on these positive approaches, we now expect positive and concrete steps from the US. We want this work and the process to be concluded as soon as possible in a positive and rapid manner," Akar said, referring to Washington’s removal of certain conditions on the sale of the weaponry from the final text of the US defense spending bill.

"We have seen the positive approach of our US counterparts from the very beginning on this issue,” Akar said during a joint press conference with Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen in capital Ankara on Thursday, Anadolu news agency reported.

The US on Tuesday has removed the conditions from the final text of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which were adopted by the House of Representatives to restrain the sale of the weaponry to Turkey. The US House of Representatives in July adopted an amendment to the NDAA to restrict the ability of Washington to sell F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, unless the Biden administration “certifies that doing so is essential to US national security” and so long as Turkey does not make unauthorized overflights of Greece with the new planes.

"We expect all our allies, especially Finland, to support and contribute to Türkiye's fight against terrorism and the modernization efforts of the Turkish Armed Forces," Akar said.

Last year, Turkey made an official request to buy 40 F-16s and some 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet, after Washington excluded it from the F-35 stealth fighter jet program over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense missiles in 2019.

While the President Joe Biden said the US administration supports the sale of the aircraft to Ankara, a possible deal needs approval from the Congress.

US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to the sale of F-16s to Turkey, saying that the NDAA was not a win for Turkey.

“Contrary to some claims, the NDAA is not a win for Turkey. This is just one of many tools we have at our disposal in the Senate to deal with arms sales. I’ll say it again. As SFRC Chairman, I will NOT approve F-16s for Turkey until [Turkish President] Erdogan halts his abuses across the region,” Menendez said.

In response to questions over Menendez’s remarks, the US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said they have an ongoing dialogue with Congress on the issue.

“Turkey has suffered more terrorist attacks on its soil than any other NATO Ally. So, of course, we are – we seek to ensure that Turkey has the defensive capabilities that it needs – what it needs to continue to serve as its role as an important NATO Ally,” Price said during a press briefing on Wednesday.