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Key US senator says will not drop opposition to F-16 sale to Turkey

Senator Bob Menendez

Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ, speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Review of the FY2023 State Department Budget Request," in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022. BONNIE CASH / POOL / AFP

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat representing the state of New Jersey, has said he is not considering dropping his opposition to the sale of new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, according to Politico.

Menendez, who has cited human rights concerns in the past as the reason for his opposition to the F-16 sale to Turkey, told Politico on Tuesday that his position is not malleable.

His remarks come as the US State Department has notified Congress it intends to sell military equipment to modernize Turkey’s existing fleet of F-16s, and US President Joe Biden late last month expressed support for selling new jets to Ankara.

The US president, speaking to reporters during the NATO summit in Madrid in June, rejected suggestions that the sales served as a quid pro quo for Ankara to withdraw its objections to Finland and Sweden’s application to the defense alliance.

“I said back in December, as you’ll recall, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well,” Biden told reporters. “There was no quid pro quo with that. It’s just, we should sell … I need congressional approval to be able to do that, and I think we can get that.”

Politico said Menendez has veto power over the sale of the F-16 fighter jets and that unless Menendez and his Republican counterpart, Senator Jim Risch, sign off, the Biden administration can’t sell the F-16s to Turkey.

“It remains to be seen whether the White House will try to pressure Menendez or Risch on the issue,” Politico said.

Meanwhile, 35 US congressmen pledged on Friday to “take every action afforded to us as Members of Congress” to block the sale of the F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits to Turkey, in a bipartisan letter to President Biden.

According to a report by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), the letter came in light of Erdoğan’s government’s repressive actions at home and aggression abroad.

“Armenian Americans join with all our coalition partners in thanking Congressman Pallone for his leadership in checking Erdogan’s escalating threats of aggression against Greece, Cyprus, Armenians, and Kurds,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We express our appreciation to all who joined this bipartisan appeal and who support legislative initiatives to block the reckless sale of F-16’s to Turkey.”

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