In a letter to President Joe Biden, 29 Democratic and Republican senators said the Scandinavian countries were making “full and good faith efforts” to meet Turkey’s NATO membership requirements, although Ankara says Sweden needs to do more.
“Once Turkey ratifies protocols to join NATO, Congress could consider selling the F-16 fighter jets. Failure to do so will raise questions about this pending sale,” the senators wrote in the letter.
Aircraft in return for the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO
- This is the first time that Congress has explicitly and directly linked the sale of F-16s to Ankara and the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.
- Congress can block foreign arms sales, but it has never mustered the two-thirds majority in both houses needed to override the president’s veto.
- Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the alliance after Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine, but they faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought its support.
- Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and the European Union consider a terrorist group.
- The three countries in Madrid reached an agreement on a way forward in June last year, but Ankara suspended talks last month after protests in Stockholm in which a far-right Danish politician burned a copy of the Koran.
- The Biden administration has repeatedly confirmed that it supports the deal and refused to link the two issues, but acknowledged that ratifying the two countries’ accession to NATO would facilitate approval of the sale in Congress.
- Turkey said it might agree to Finland’s request to join the alliance before Sweden, but the Finnish president and foreign minister rejected the idea, saying that the security of each country depends on the other.
- Of the 30 members of the Alliance, Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the membership of the two Scandinavian countries.
- In October 2021, Turkey requested the purchase of 40 F-16 fighters manufactured by Lockheed Martin and approximately 80 sets of spare parts to modernize its warplanes.
- On a visit to Washington last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the issue of NATO membership should not be a precondition for the sale, and urged the Biden administration to persuade Congress to drop its objection.
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