US offers support for Turkish F-16 deal

Washington had previously not openly expressed any opinion on the sale, other than to say that all arms sales would have to go through the necessary legal process.

In March, the State Department wrote a letter to some US congressmen who had opposed the sale, saying “appropriate” US defense trade ties with Turkey would serve US interests.

Ms Wallander’s comments follow an 11 a.m. agreement reached between Turkey, Finland and Sweden on Tuesday after four hours of talks, averting an awkward standoff at the gathering of 30 NATO leaders that aims to show determination in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden, speaking ahead of his meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, praised Erdogan’s efforts to help broker a deal with the Nordic countries. “I especially want to thank you for what you have done,” Mr Biden said.

The three nations signed an agreement under which Ankara lifted its block on Finnish and Swedish membership, while the candidates pledged not to support the Kurdish militant groups PKK and YPG, or the network of American cleric Fethullah Gulen , which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt.

US officials have pushed back against any suggestion that Washington backs the warplanes’ request to lift Turkish objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

“The United States has offered nothing to Turkey and nothing has been requested by Turkey” as part of its deal with Finland and Sweden, a senior administration official said.

The official said US officials were engaged in ongoing technical discussions over Turkey’s request to buy US F-16 fighter jets. Congress would have the final say on such sales.

Mr Erdogan, before leaving for Madrid on Tuesday but after a phone call with Mr Biden, criticized the United States over the sale of F-16s, saying it was blocking Ankara.

During his meeting with Mr. Biden, Mr. Erdogan did not raise the issue of the F-16 but expressed his pleasure to meet Mr. Biden “after a long time”. The two leaders last met in person in October 2021 and held a phone call earlier this year.

The sale of US arms to NATO ally Turkey has become controversial after Ankara acquired Russian-made defense missile systems, triggering US sanctions as well as Turkey’s withdrawal from the program F-35 fighter jets.

Reuters

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