The chairman of the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee vowed on Friday to withhold the Biden administration’s plans to sell fighter jets to Turkey unless Turkey improves its human rights record and ceases to threaten other NATO allies.
Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.) Said in a statement. It’s been over a year since NATO member Turkey requested the purchase of 40 US-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing fighters in October 2021. Technical negotiations between the two companies have recently concluded.
After Ankara acquired a Russian-made defense missile system, US arms sales to NATO ally Turkey sparked controversy after triggering US sanctions and Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter program. caused it.
The Wall Street Journal first report The Biden administration has been considering a potential transfer of F-16s worth $20 billion, and has been in informal contact with Congress for months to get congressional approval, but without success. later Verified by other media.
“[Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan] It undermines international law, ignores human rights and democratic norms, and continues to engage in vigilant and destabilizing actions against Turkey and its neighboring NATO allies.
The Democratic Party chair said he would oppose the deal “until President Erdogan stops threatening him, improves his human rights record in the country, including releasing journalists and dissidents, and begins acting as a trusted ally.” promised.
He further welcomed the news of the sale of new F-35 fighters to Greece, calling Athens a “credible NATO ally” and saying that the sale was “in defense of common principles, including collective defense, democracy and humanity.” strengthen the capabilities of both countries,” he said. Rights and Rule of Law. “
149th out of 180 countries in the world, according to Turkey, Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Global Press Freedom Index, passed a highly controversial bill last October. December report Turkey, along with Iran, China, Burma and Belarus, was found to be one of the top prisoners in the past year, according to the Commission to Protect Journalists.
The State Department said last March that an “appropriate” U.S. defense trade relationship with Turkey would serve U.S. interests, but as long as Turkey refuses to proceed with ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, Congress will consider We are unlikely to approve a sale in the middle.
The two countries ended decades of neutrality in May last year and applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but Turkey opposed it and announced a move from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. He denounced countries that harbor extremists, including those who are not, and called for action to be taken.
At a news conference on Saturday, the Turkish president’s spokesman and his chief foreign policy adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, said Washington’s demands for the supply of fighter jets are “unbounded.”
“If they keep pushing Turkey in the other direction with F-16 [and] If Turkey responds to sanctions on the F-35 and blames Turkey again, it’s not fair game,” Karin said. “Their list of requests seems endless. There’s always something.”
A State Department spokeswoman declined Reuters’ request for comment, saying she would neither confirm nor comment on the proposed arms sale or transfer until the administration formally seeks congressional approval.
Under U.S. law, Congress can block a sale by passing a resolution disapproving it after formal notice of the sale, but President Joe Biden decided to go ahead despite lawmakers’ objections. If they do, they are unlikely to do so. Congress has passed such resolutions in the past, but it gathered the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses to overcome the president’s veto. It is not.
Reuters contributed to this report.