US approves sale of warplanes to Turkey and Greece

Biden administration gives go-ahead for 40 F-16s to be sold to Ankara and 20 F-35s to Athens

The US said approval of Turkey's request for F-16 jets depended on Ankara's approval of Sweden's Nato membership. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden's administration has approved a long-pending sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece.

The administration formally notified Congress of the approvals on Friday, according to the State Department and the US Defence Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA).

The State Department sent the notification to advance the $23 billion sale of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and nearly 80 modernisation kits to Turkey a day after Ankara fully completed ratification of the Nato membership of Sweden, a move that became directly linked to deal.

The Biden administration simultaneously advanced the sale of 20 Lockheed F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jets to fellow Nato ally Greece in an $8.6 billion deal that Washington advanced as it tries to strike a balance between two alliance members with a history of tense relations.

The DSCA said the sale of F-35s to Greece would “support the foreign policy goals and national security of the United States by improving the air capabilities and interoperability of a Nato ally that is a force for political and economic stability in Europe”.

Turkey first made the request for the F-16 jets in October 2021, but Ankara's delay in approving the ratification of Sweden's Nato bid had been a major obstacle to winning congressional approval for the sale.

Following 20 months of delay, the Turkish Parliament earlier this week ratified Sweden's Nato bid, and subsequently Mr Biden wrote a letter to congressional committee leaders, urging them to approve the F-16 sale “without delay”.

Leaders of the Senate foreign relations committee and House of Representatives foreign affairs committees review every major foreign arms sale. They regularly ask questions or raise concerns over human rights or diplomatic issues that can delay or stop such deals.

Following the formal notification by the State Department, the Congress has 15 days to object to the sale, after which it is considered final.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said his approval of the F-16 sale depended on Turkish approval of Sweden’s Nato membership, but also called on Ankara to improve its human rights record, co-operate better on holding Russia accountable for its invasion in Ukraine and to help de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

“My concerns have been strongly and consistently conveyed to the Biden administration as part of our continuing engagement, and I am encouraged by the productive direction of their discussions with Turkish officials to address these issues,” he said.

US officials said they do not expect Congress to block either sale, despite criticism of Turkey by some members.

With reporting from Reuters.

Updated: January 27, 2024, 8:47 AM