Turkey urges Biden administration to be 'decisive' over F-16 deal

Turkey urges Biden administration to be 'decisive' over F-16 deal
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In a rare visit to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his U.S. counterpart Anthony Blinken that "the administration should not waste such an important deal between two allies just because a few people are blocking it"

Turkey on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to be decisive in its attempt to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and convince the U.S. Congress to drop its opposition to a proposed $20 billion deal, as relations between the two countries are strained over Turkey's ties with Russia and NATO expansion.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Washington that he had told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO should not be a precondition for the F-16 sale.

"What is important here is whether the administration will be decisive or not.... If it would show a strong stance against any steps to prevent this, the problem would be solved," Cavusoglu said after a meeting with Blinken.

The Biden administration has expressed support for selling the jets to Turkey, despite congressional opposition over Ankara's problematic human rights record and Syria policy, as it seeks to preserve NATO unity in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose leaders review major foreign military sales, has opposed the deal.

"The administration should not waste such an important deal between two allies just because one person or a few people blocked it. It should not back down," Cavusoglu said.

Recently, Ankara's refusal to ratify Sweden's and Finland's membership in NATO has become a growing focus of congressional opposition.

"( Turkish President Tayyip ) Erdogan's repeated attacks on our Syrian Kurdish allies and continued cozying up to Russia -- including delaying Sweden and Finland's NATO membership -- remain serious causes for concern," Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement.

"As I've have said before, in order for Turkey to receive the F-16s, we need assurances that these concerns will be addressed," he said.

The two Nordic states applied for membership in the NATO membership last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but their bids need approval from all 30 NATO member states NATO. Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the applications.

Turkey objected, accusing the countries of harboring groups it considers terrorists. It said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance toward those groups, especially Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Last week, the State Department informally notified committees overseeing arms sales in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of its intention to proceed with the sale.

However, a senior administration official said Washington is unlikely to go through with the sale unless Menendez abandons his opposition.

While Congress can block foreign arms sales, it has not previously mustered the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to overcome a presidential veto.

Cavusoglu added that the U.S. side has not given a date for when it will send formal notification to Congress for the F-16s.