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The Biden administration has told US lawmakers it intends to sell Turkey $23 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets after Ankara formally authorized Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.
The U.S. State Department has informed Congress that it plans to approve Turkey’s request to purchase 40 F-16s, according to an announcement late Friday from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The United States also intends to sell Turkey kits to upgrade 79 existing F-16 aircraft as part of the deal.
U.S. approval of the arms deal, first proposed by Turkey more than two years ago, is expected to end a long saga that has marred relations between the NATO allies.
“These new and renovated aircraft will provide Turkey with a fleet of modernized multi-role combat aircraft to enable it to defend its airspace, contribute to NATO missions aimed at preserving regional security and defending NATO allies,” the DSCA said.
The United States also announced Friday that it plans to approve Greece’s request to buy nearly $9 billion worth of the latest generation F-35 fighter jets. That deal was also delayed by the impasse in approving Turkey’s F-16 purchases.
The White House had linked its approval of Turkey’s purchases to the country’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO candidacy, while Ankara insisted the United States must approve the deal. weapons as a condition for meeting Stockholm’s request. In addition to pushing the United States to authorize its F-16 purchases, Turkey has also demanded numerous security concessions from Stockholm.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed Sweden’s membership of NATO on Thursday. The move leaves Hungary as the only NATO member country to oppose approval of Stockholm’s request. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this week that Hungary was determined to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, but he also invited his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson to Budapest to “negotiate.”
The United States and other Western allies view Sweden’s NATO membership as a vital bulwark against Russian aggression in Europe after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Erdoğan also took steps to improve relations with Greece, which was seen by some U.S. lawmakers as an important step toward sealing the F-16 deal. The Turkish president visited Athens in December for his first official visit since 2017, pledging to “resolve our current problems through constructive dialogue, good neighborliness and collaborative efforts.”
Congress will have 15 days to examine the Turkish and Greek arms contracts. Turkey’s F-16 purchases will largely be made by Lockheed Martin, while Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney will be the main contractors for the Greek F-35 contract.
Ben Cardin, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday that his approval of Turkey’s F-16 deal was “contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden’s membership in NATO.”
But he also warned that the United States remained concerned about Ankara’s lack of cooperation in “holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine” and the Erdoğan government’s human rights record. .
Turkey had sought to buy the latest generation F-35 jets, but was excluded from the US-led program in 2019 after Ankara took delivery of a Russian air defense system despite US objections .