The Biden administration is making ready to ask Congress to approve the sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, after weighing a Turkish request for the planes for greater than a yr, congressional sources conversant in the deliberations instructed CNN.
If authorised, the sale could be among the many largest arms gross sales in years. The administration can also be discussing a separate sale of 40 F-35 warplanes to Greece. There are longstanding tensions between Turkey and Greece.
Turkey was faraway from the F-35 program in 2019 in response to Ankara’s choice to buy the Russian-made S-400 missile system.
The sale to Turkey may put stress on Ankara to approve the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, a course of that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been blocking since final yr.
Finland and Sweden have been formally invited to hitch the alliance on the NATO summit in June final yr, however as a NATO member Turkey may block them from becoming a member of.
A Finnish official instructed CNN that Finland has “not been a part of any discussions” with regards to the American F-16s.
“Finland has applied all the pieces that was agreed in Madrid in June. Now we hope all NATO members assist us get our accession course of over the ending line. What involves American F-16s, we clearly haven’t been a part of any discussions. It’s an inner US matter,” the Finnish official mentioned.
It’s not clear when the administration plans to make a proper request to Congress, as required by regulation for overseas army gross sales. However on Thursday night time, the administration despatched casual notifications in regards to the potential sale to the Home International Affairs and Senate International Relations committees, kicking off the committee evaluate course of, the sources mentioned.
The Wall Road Journal first reported the information.
Most administrations usually give Congress casual notification of proposed gross sales weeks earlier than taking formal motion. The casual notification course of is a standard observe during which the related committees get a heads up on deliberate gross sales, permitting committee management to lift issues, give their enter, or place holds.
As soon as the administration formally notifies the complete Congress of the meant sale, lawmakers then have 30 days to dam the deal, which they will do by passing a joint decision of disapproval.
Senate International Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez mentioned on Friday that he wouldn’t approve any proposed sale of F-16 plane to Turkey, persevering with his longstanding opposition to offering the weaponry to Ankara.
“As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I strongly oppose the Biden administration’s proposed sale of recent F-16 plane to Turkey,” the New Jersey Democrat mentioned. “President Erdogan continues to undermine worldwide regulation, disregard human rights and democratic norms, and interact in alarming and destabilizing conduct in Turkey and towards neighboring NATO allies.”
Menendez has been extremely crucial of Turkey’s focusing on of the Kurds and threatened incursions into northern Syria. He has slammed Ankara’s closeness with Moscow and warned the Turks towards buying any extra S-400 missile methods from Russia. Moreover, Menendez has accused Turkey of repeatedly violating Greek airspace with provocative overflights within the Aegean Sea, calling it “unacceptable conduct from a NATO nation” in remarks in Athens final yr.
“Till Erdogan ceases his threats, improves his human rights report at house – together with by releasing journalists and political opposition – and begins to behave like a trusted ally ought to, I cannot approve this sale,” Menendez mentioned.
On the identical time, the New Jersey Democrat mentioned he welcomed “the information of the sale of recent F-35 fighter plane to Greece.”
“This protection functionality isn’t solely crucial for a trusted NATO ally and enduring accomplice’s efforts to advance safety and stability within the Japanese Mediterranean, but in addition strengthens our two nations’ skills to defend shared rules together with our collective protection, democracy, human rights, and the rule of regulation,” he mentioned Friday.
A Nationwide Safety Council spokesperson referred CNN to the State Division for remark.
“As a matter of coverage, the Division isn’t going to touch upon proposed protection gross sales or transfers till they’ve been formally notified to Congress,” State Division principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel mentioned at a briefing Friday.
“However what I might say is that Turkey and Greece each are very important, very important, NATO Allies,” he added, noting that the US has “a historical past of supporting their safety apparatuses.”
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