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US Congress links F-16 sale to Turkey with approval of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland

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A bipartisan group of senators said on Thursday that the US Congress cannot support the $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara ratifies the NATO memberships of Sweden and Finland, Reuters reported.

“Once the NATO accession protocols are ratified by Türkiye, Congress can consider the sale of F-16 fighter jets. A failure to do so, however, would call into question this pending sale,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey, which wants them to take a tougher line against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The three nations reached an agreement on a way forward in Madrid last June, but Ankara suspended talks last month following protests in Stockholm in which a far-right Danish politician burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

In the letter, 29 Democratic and Republican senators wrote that the two Nordic countries were making “full and good faith efforts” to meet the conditions for NATO membership that Turkey asked for, even though Ankara says Sweden needs to do more.

The senators explicitly linked the F-16 sale to Turkey with the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale and refused to link the two issues, but it acknowledged that the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession would facilitate the sale process in Congress.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said the NATO issue should not be a precondition for the sale and urged the Biden administration to persuade Congress to drop its objections.

Turkey has said it could approve Finland’s NATO membership application ahead of Sweden’s, but the Finnish president and foreign minister have both rejected this idea.

Of NATO’s 30 members, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the Nordic countries’ memberships.

Turkey asked to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets and 79 modernization kits for its existing aircraft in October 2021.

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

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