Turkey can have F16s if they stay out of Greece

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The US House voted to allow President Joe Biden to sell Turkey upgraded F-16 jets — if Ankara pledges, they will not be used against Greece.

Lawmakers, by a margin of 244-179, backed a provision to the annual defence authorization bill that would prohibit the sale of F-16s to Turkey unless Biden certifies that providing fighters is in the US national interest and that Turkey won’t use the jets for unauthorized territorial overflights of Greece.

Biden has already said he supports selling the F-16s to Turkey, soon after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signalled his support for Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Turkey would respond to limitations on its use of the F-16s or how any deal would be enforced after Ankara received the jets.

NATO Expansion

“What we are saying here is that we want some detailed analysis of what is going on here,” Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, a co-sponsor of the provision, said during Thursday’s debate on the defence bill.

“The bottom line is they have not put forward any explanation of how this is in the national interest of the United States.”

Palone tweeted: “We cannot allow Erdogan to continue using Turkey’s NATO status to avoid consequences for his actions”.

Congressman John Sarbanes posted: “Today the House passed an amendment I introduced with my colleagues to prevent Joe Biden from selling any F-16 fighter jets or related technology to Turkey until it is held accountable for its destabilizing actions against our allies.

“I will continue to push for not selling them”.

Turkey turned its focus to buying F-16s after being kicked out of the program to help manufacture and buy the next-generation F-35 fighter.

That move was made in response to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, which Erdogan said were urgently needed for his country’s defence.

While both Turkey and Greece are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the two nations are bitter rivals involved in contentious geographic disputes, including over the island of Cyprus and the Dodecanese — a group of islands off the Turkish coast that were ceded to Greece by Italy following World War II.

Senate Challenges

The Senate would have to back similar language before the defence bill heads to the president for his signature or vote on a separate measure disagreeing with the sale.

The president can veto such legislation.

Biden also faces opposition to the sale in the US Senate, most notably from Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who leads the Foreign Relations Committee.

Even if the measure makes it into the defence bill that goes to Biden’s desk, Menendez is one of four senior congressional leaders who would have to not object to the sale for it to go forward.

There is also a mechanism under the Arms Export Control Act for Congress to adopt a joint resolution of disapproval for arms sales notified by the president, but Congress has never successfully blocked a proposed sale via such a resolution. (sources Bloomberg, CNA)