US Senate gives green light for F-16 sale to Turkey

US Senate gives green light for F-16 sale to Turkey
Update: 12 October 2022 19:39
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The US lawmakers dropped amendments restricting the sale of F-16s paving the way for Biden to finalize the transfer of 80 new fighter jets and the modernization of Turkey's existing fleet

Two amendments introduced by Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris van Hollen restricting the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey have been dropped on Tuesday from the annual US defense spending bill during a convention in the US Senate to finalize the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) bill, which includes the 2023 defense budget, Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu reported, based on sources from the US Congress. 

The first amendment by Senator Menendez required the American president to certify that “such a transfer is in the national interest of the United States” and requires “concrete steps taken to ensure that such F-16s are not used by Turkey for repeated unauthorized territorial overflights of Greece.”

The second amendment created additional conditions for Turkey to purchase or modernize its F-16 fighter jets, bringing hurdles for theur use against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and requiring Turkey’s ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession.

The fiscal 2023 NDAA must pass the Senate and House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

Renowned journalist Amberin Zaman said the Senate's decision did not change the situation as Bob Menendez, the Chairman the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee stil objects the sale of F-16s to Turkey.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the route through which the proposed sale must make its way to the Senate for approval. Menendez has the power to stymie the deal in his role as committee chair.

Anadolu said Turkey’s diplomatic efforts in Washington have been effective in the Senate’s decision. 

A leader of a Turkish delegation visiting the US capital late September said that congressional members were "positive" during talks on modernization of the fleet of Türkiye's F-16 fighter jets.

The delegation discussed bilateral and regional issues, including the F-16 fighter jet sales with two senators and 17 Democrat and Republican representatives.

After Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 defense systems in 2019, Washington excluded Turkey from a F-35 stealth fighter jet programme. Instead, Turkey made an official request to buy 40 F-16s and some 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet last year.

US President Joe Biden supported the sale at a NATO Summit in Madrid at the end of last month and said he was confident the congressional approval needed for the sale can be obtained.