Biden administration strongly supports sale of F-16 to Turkey: Blinken
This comes as the Turkish Foreign Minister claimed that "it would not be right to make Sweden and Finland's NATO membership a condition for the F-16s."
During a press conference in Ankara on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Biden was "strongly" in favor of delivering F-16 jets to Turkey.
"The Biden administration strongly supports the package to both upgrade the existing F-16s and to provide new ones," Blinken said at the conference.
The US official further said that he has already been actively engaging with Congress to gain their support in green-lighting the deal. But he said he could not specify a "formal timeline" for the approval and delivery of the jets.
🇺🇸🇹🇷 US Secretary of State Blinken says Biden supports selling F-16 fighter jets to Turkey as part of Ankara’s Air Force modernization program, as he visits Turkey and meets with Prez Erdogan and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu.— Rahini (@rahini1207) February 20, 2023
Via Intel Republic pic.twitter.com/A7y6uY8jJz
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu believes "it would not be right to make Sweden and Finland's NATO membership a condition for the F-16s. They are two different issues."
Blinken reiterated that the US "strongly" supported Finland and Sweden's entry into NATO and "as quickly as possible," noting that "Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps" to address Turkey's concerns.
Turkey had previously indicated its will to lift all restrictions on the Nordic countries' accession to NATO. However, the Turkish Foreign Minister claimed that Kurdish militants were still engaging in "all kinds of activities, including recruitment and terrorist propaganda" in Sweden.
Turkish Foreign Minister— Ali Topchi (@atopchi) February 20, 2023
Cavusoglu (presser with his US counterpart Blinken):
— 2022 trade $32B, aim is $100B
— Expect unilateral sanctions to be lifted
— US gov't supports F-16 sales
— Expect rapid official not to Congress over jets
— Emphasized coordination on security alerts pic.twitter.com/MUlob4EeUb
Read more: Finland wants to join NATO alongside Sweden: Finnish PM
Turkey has insisted that the approval of the selling of F-16 should not depend on Ankara's decision to lift conditions imposed on Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO.
Last month, Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met in the US to discuss several issues of concern, including the sale of F-16 jets.
Blinken had said following their meeting that Turkey was not acting like an ally and that Washington had to assess whether more sanctions should be implemented to push for a change in policy.
"I think we need to take a look to see the impact that the existing CAATSA sanctions have had on and then determine whether [there is] more that needs to be done. Turkey is not acting like an ally," he said.
The United States has committed $185 million in humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
Read more: US Senator Bob Menendez approves sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece