Congress members urge US curbs on Turkey F16s

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Six US Congress members propose creating an oversight mechanism to ensure Turkey does not use new F-16 fighters to violate Greek sovereignty in the Aegean.

A letter to Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken was signed by Congresspeople Chris Papas, Gus Bilirakis, Frank Palone, John Sarbanes, Dina Titus, and Nicole Malliotakis.

They urge clear mechanisms of accountability must be included in any F-16 deal with Turkey, which will be able to freeze, delay or even cancel their transfer depending on Turkey’s behaviour.

“If an agreement for the sale of F-16s and modernisation kits to Turkey is under consideration, we strongly urge that any final agreement must include mechanisms that provide for the pause, delay, or snapback of the transfer of such weapons if Turkey engages in actions that threaten or undermine US national security interests and the unity of the NATO alliance,” the letter says.

The members of Congress said any agreement must safeguard greater NATO security interests, not merely Sweden’s accession.

They also argue the terms and conditions can be included in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) that the US government sends to Turkey if the F-16 contract is approved.

As noted in the letter, there is not only precedent for imposing conditions on the sale of defensive weapons, but Congress has also already voiced support for attaching conditions to such a sale.

“In the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House of Representatives passed an amendment which would establish reasonable limitations on the Administration’s ability to transfer F-16 aircraft and F-16 modernisation kits to Turkey.

“This provision passed the House on a bipartisan basis, with 73% of Members voting in favour.

“Turkey’s belligerence in the region – which threatens the very stability in the Aegean praised by both President Biden and National Security Advisor Sullivan in recent readouts – must end for the US to responsibly transfer new weapons to Ankara.

“There must be guarantees that preclude American weapons being used to provoke a conflict within NATO.

“Given Turkey’s history of using American F-16s for overflights in the Aegean and to challenge Greek sovereignty, we request mechanisms that provide for the pause, delay, or snapback of the transfer of American weapons to Turkey if it resumes its destabilising actions in the Eastern Mediterranean that threaten or undermine US national security interests or NATO security architecture”.

Congress members said the impression that Turkey has improved relations with NATO ally Greece is “belied by the fact that Ankara maintains a casus belli against Athens.”

“Turkey also continues to possess Russian S-400 missile systems, the purchase of which – due to collocation concerns – was the basis for Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 program in 2019.

“Turkey’s belligerent behaviour towards Greece – a truly reliable, democratic NATO ally – and the threat of its continued possession of S-400s to NATO’s security architecture cannot go unaddressed as the Administration considers an agreement with the Turkish government.”