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Turkey faces F-16s sale block over Cyprus threats

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The sale of F-16s to Turkey could only take place if Ankara abandons its aggressive stance towards Greece and Cyprus and other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean contrary to American interests, US Senator Bob Menendez said.

In an interview with Mega TV channel in Greece, the chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said: “What we have seen is a Turkey that is threatening another NATO member country, the Hellenic Republic, and threatening it without justification, without cause.”

Menendez reiterated that he would not budge from approving the sale of F-16s to Turkey.

“It would be problematic to sell military hardware when Turkey takes such actions and when it clearly manifests over and over again some of its intentions.”

He argued that the sale of the F-16s can only be done “if and only if we can have Turkey abandon its belligerent position both to the Hellenic Republic, to Cyprus and other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean which are adverse to our national interests and our national security.”

Referring to the State Department’s approach to calling on Greece and Turkey to tame their words or find a peaceful way to resolve their differences, the US Senator said, “this is not acceptable when it is one side and only one side that is belligerent.”

Turkey hopes the US will approve a $20 billion deal it requested in October 2021 for 40 new F-16 Block 70 Viper jets and 79 modernisation kits for upgrading the older F-16s in Turkey’s existing fleet.

However, Congress has yet to approve it, and a key senator, New Jersey Democrat Menendez, remains adamant he will block the sale indefinitely unless Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan implements sweeping policy changes.

Furthermore, even if the sale was unanimously approved tomorrow, analysts argue that Turkey will still have to wait before receiving its new Viper jets due to the production backlog caused by massive demand among other F-16 operators.

Menendez supports selling fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to Greece. Athens wants at least 20 of these fifth-generation aircraft.

In the 2023 Global Firepower index, Greece and Turkey are listed as one of the major flashpoints in the world, which is unsurprising given the ongoing tensions between them.

Turkey was ranked more powerful than Greece in every category, including air power.

While that will likely stay the same, Athens could garner a clear qualitative advantage with new fighter jets.