By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. senator who has lengthy opposed the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey stated on Tuesday he needs Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to take a “much less belligerent” stance towards NATO allies and Turkey’s neighbors earlier than lifting his opposition to the deal.
“Now what’s essential is how does Erdogan need to transfer into the long run with Turkey. If he needs to vary course from the place he is been, I stay up for seeing that,” Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, instructed reporters within the wake of Erdogan’s election victory.
“If it is the identical, or extra of the identical, as what we have seen then I will nonetheless have the identical positions as I’ve had earlier than,” Menendez stated.
NATO member Turkey requested in October 2021 to purchase $20 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and almost 80 modernization kits for its current warplanes. President Joe Biden’s administration has stated it helps the sale and has been in contact for months with Congress to win its approval.
However it has confronted opposition, notably from Menendez, over a spread of points, together with Turkey’s resistance to the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, considerations concerning the jailing of journalists and different human rights abuses, and Turkish overflights of Greek airspace.
“Sweden is barely a part of the equation. For some members, it might be the entire equation. It is not for me,” Menendez stated.
Menendez stated he had not heard from Biden about Turkey for the reason that president’s congratulatory name to Erdogan. Erdogan repeated Ankara’s need to purchase the F-16s, whereas Biden instructed him Washington needed Ankara to drop its objection to Sweden’s becoming a member of NATO.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Turkey on Tuesday to instantly finalize Sweden’s accession to NATO, and rejected the suggestion that the Biden administration is linking Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO accession to the F-16 sale.
In the course of the casual evaluate course of for main weapons gross sales, the leaders of the Senate Overseas Relations and Home Overseas Affairs committees can put “holds” on the offers, stopping them over points together with human rights considerations.
Menendez stated Blinken has assured him he’ll respect his maintain.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Modifying by Stephen Coates)