Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the resignation of US Senator Bob Menendez from chairmanship of a Senate committee would help Turkey’s bid to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the United States due to the senator’s strong opposition to the sale.
Menendez, a Democratic senator for New Jersey, resigned from chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week following federal charges that he took cash and gold in exchange for helping the Egyptian government and New Jersey business associates.
Menendez has voiced strong opposition to the potential sale of the F-16s to Turkey over issues including Turkey’s resistance to the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, concerns about human rights abuses and Turkish overflights of Greek airspace.
Erdoğan, who spoke to reporters on his way back from a visit to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, said one of the biggest problems regarding the sale of F-16 jets to Turkey was the position of Menendez against Turkey and that now Turkey can benefit from his resignation from the influential position.
“Menendez’s exit gives us an advantage, but the F-16 issue is not one that depends only on Menendez,” Erdoğan added.
NATO member Turkey requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. President Joe Biden’s administration supports the sale.
Ankara had held out on the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership for months, accusing Stockholm of doing too little against people Turkey sees as terrorists, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But President Erdoğan said in July he would forward the ratification to parliament when it reopens in fall.
Although Turkey gave a green light to Sweden’s NATO bid, Menendez said his stance about the sale of F-16s to Turkey has not changed.
There is “nothing new,” Menendez said in late July. “We continue to raise our concerns.”
“Sweden still hasn’t received a vote from Turkey even though Erdogan said, ‘Yes, OK, Sweden should be in.’ He could have called the parliament. He could have had the vote. He hasn’t had it,” Menendez said.
He also cited concern about Turkey’s relations with Greece, asking, “How does it work for us to have one NATO ally be belligerent to another and someone sell them F-16s?”