State Dept. Works Senator Menendez on F-16 Fighters Sale for Turkiye

American online political news daily Punchbowl News reported Tuesday, citing three people familiar with the negotiations, that the Biden administration supports the $20 billion sale worth of F-16 fighters to Ankara and has informally informed Congress on the willingness to do so, but Menendez and the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee can place holds on major weapons sales as part of the review process.

Top Biden administration officials want to make sure that the senator will not obscure the sale of F-16s to Ankara that ties the delivery of jets to Turkiye’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, the report said. Menendez has long been opposing the sale of advanced fighters to Ankara, accusing it of violating Greece’s airspace, the report said. Last October, Turkiye requested to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets in a proposed $20 billion deal, but a final agreement has been stalled amid multiple disputes between Ankara and Washington, including Turkiye’s obstruction of Sweden’s NATO accession.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022, several months after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine. Their membership bids were initially blocked by Turkiye, which accused Stockholm and Helsinki of supporting “terrorists,” referring to supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

Turkiye lifted its objections after the three leaders met in Madrid in June 2022, where they signed a security memorandum that cleared the way for the two Nordic countries to join the alliance. In April, Finland’s application was ratified by all 30 members of the alliance. Sweden’s application is still pending approval from Hungary and Turkiye, with the accession process stalled in part due to Quran-burning incidents in Stockholm. The latest took place last Wednesday, the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, when a protest in which a Quran was burned took place outside Stockholm’s main mosque. The Swedish police authorized the act, which was condemned by many countries.

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