US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez is maintaining his hold on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey despite the fact that Turkey lifted its objection to Sweden’s entry into NATO, Defense News reported.
Talk of the sale of F-16 jets to Turkey, which has so far remained in limbo due to opposition from some US senators because Turkey was hindering Sweden’s bid to join NATO, was revived after Turkey gave a green light to Sweden’s entry to the alliance following a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius one day before the start of a NATO summit there on July 11.
Following Turkey’s move, several US officials including President Joe Biden expressed the willingness of the US administration to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey if it gets approval from the US Congress.
However, Menendez, a Democrat, told Defense News on Tuesday that he continues to use his position as Foreign Relations Committee chairman to block the sale.
“I’ve always said that the ratification of Sweden, which should naturally occur, is not the sine qua non of why I would lift the hold on F-16s,” Menendez said. “There’s bigger issues than just that alone.”
Menendez told Reuters last week that if the Biden administration “can find a way to ensure that Turkey’s aggression against its neighbors ceases, [of] which there has been a lull the last several months, that’s great but there has to be a permanent reality.”
Menendez also said there needs to be a way to “beef up Greece’s security” and obtain “assurances about future actions.”
Turkey in October 2021 sought to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 fighter jets and some 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. Technical talks between the two sides have been concluded.
Turkey had been blocking Sweden’s membership bid, accusing Stockholm of harboring Kurdish activists and political dissidents Ankara regards as terrorists.
Sweden and Finland ended decades of neutrality and applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey objected and accused the countries of harboring “terrorists” and demanded steps be taken. Finland joined NATO in April.