At the end of months of negotiations, the US government gave its approval, on Friday, January 26, to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as F-35 jets to Greece, following Ankara’s ratification this week of the Sweden agreement. Membership in NATO.
The deal stipulates that Turkey will receive forty new F-16 aircraft and Greece forty F-35 aircraft for an amount of $8 billion (7.36 billion euros), the Ministry of Defense announced.
The latter formally notified Congress, as required by US law, of this double sale late Friday afternoon, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed to reporters.
To do so, the United States waited until documents for Turkey's ratification of Sweden's NATO membership were deposited in Washington, this official said, demonstrating the highly sensitive nature of the negotiations that prevailed in that agreement.
As depositaries of the North Atlantic Treaty, all instruments of ratification must be deposited in the Federal Capital, which will host a summit in July to celebrate the 75th anniversary of NATO. US law also requires Congress to be notified of any sale of US weapons to a foreign government.
Türkiye approves Stockholm's membership in NATO
The issue of F-16s for Turkey, which it needs to modernize its air force, is a long saga that has been punctuated by discussions between the United States and Turkey in the wake of Sweden's candidacy for NATO membership.
On Tuesday, the Turkish parliament approved Stockholm's accession, ending twenty months of negotiations that tested the patience of Ankara's Western allies, keen to form a united front against Moscow in the context of the invasion of Ukraine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the standoff, first demanding a series of reforms from Sweden and then setting a condition for this simultaneous sale of US F-16s.
To meet Ankara's demands, Sweden reformed its constitution and adopted a new anti-terrorism law, as Turkey accused Sweden of being lenient with Kurdish militants who took refuge on its territory, and whom Ankara considers terrorists.
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In May 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Sweden announced its candidacy for NATO membership, coinciding with the announcement of Finland, which became the thirty-first member of the organization in April 2023.
Opposition from elected representatives in Congress
If the US government was always in favor of selling F-16 aircraft to Turkey, the elected representatives in Congress – especially the Democrats – opposed this and stopped the file, citing the negative human rights record in Turkey and tensions with Greece. They linked this contract directly to the Turkish ratification. As a result, the Biden administration, until Friday, refrained from notifying Congress.
The influential Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Ben Cardin, announced in a press statement published on Friday evening his approval of the sale, stressing that he had not done so. “I did not make this decision lightly.”. Congress has the power to block it by passing a joint resolution, but no one expects that, as the requirement to ratify Sweden's membership has now been lifted.
US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, led an intense diplomatic sequence between Athens and Ankara to reach this agreement, and went so far as to repeat it three times to the Turkish President, during a trip to Ankara, immediately after the February 2023 earthquake. And that there will be no planes without ratification, according to Administrator.
F-35s for Greece
The agreement first required Athens to commit not to obstruct the sale, and at the same time granted Athens more advanced F-35 aircraft, according to this source.
Athens had strongly objected to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, due to the territorial disputes it has long opposed with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean region, which is rich in energy resources.
However, this new expansion of NATO is not yet fully completed. Hungary is still continuing to ratify Sweden's membership despite Budapest's promises that it will not be the last country to give the green light. “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has once again shown that he is the least reliable member of NATO.”“, expressed his regret to Senator Ben Cardin.
In Washington, they say they expect it will take a few more weeks, but Hungary is committed to moving forward, making it possible to envision a flag-raising ceremony during the next ministerial meeting. .
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