BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
The process of the United States approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to NATO member Türkiye is going well and could be completed within a couple of months, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said Thursday.
Türkiye has been seeking to modernize its existing warplanes to update its air force and sought to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits from the U.S. after the purchase of F-35s fell through.
Talks on the deal were expected to gain pace after two amendments that put conditions on a potential sale to Türkiye were last month reportedly removed from a Senate version of a bill that created a new hurdle for any deal.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he supports the sale and that he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Türkiye’s air force.
Kalın said that the Biden administration was making sincere efforts on the issue.
“It’s not very easy to give a clear forecast but it appears there is a high probability of the process being completed in the next month or two,” Kalın was quoted as saying when asked if the United States would sell F-16s to Türkiye.
“When this happens the F-16 problem, both the modernization and the purchase of new F-16s, will be resolved,” he told an interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk.
In September, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he had received “positive” feedback from two U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Chris Coons, who he met in New York on their potential support for the sale.
Ankara has said it may consider alternatives, including Russia, if the United States fails to follow through on its promise to deliver F-16s to the Turkish air forces.
The sale of U.S. weapons to Türkiye became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 defense missile systems. The deal triggered U.S. sanctions as well as Türkiye’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.
The legislation approved by the House of Representatives in July sought to bar the sale to Türkiye unless the Biden administration certifies that doing so is essential to U.S. national security. It also included a description of concrete steps taken to ensure they are not used for “unauthorized overflights” of Greece.
Ankara has been voicing its firm opposition to any conditions on the sale of the jets.