The Biden administration considers a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to NATO ally Turkey would be in line with U.S. national security interests and would also serve NATO’s long-term unity, the State Department said in a letter to Congress that fell short of explicitly supporting the deal.
Turkey made a submission in October to the United States to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes.
Washington has so far refrained from expressing any opinion on the sale, saying it needs to go through the standard arms sales process.
The sale of U.S. weapons to NATO ally Turkey became controversial as the U.S. has unilaterally removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Ankara acquired Russian-made defence missile systems.
Washington has also imposed sanctions on the country’s defence industry officials.
The State Department letter, first reported by Reuters, is dated March 17 and signed by the agency’s top legislative official Naz Durakoğlu. She acknowledges the strained relations while at the same time describing Turkey’s support and defence ties with Ukraine as “an important deterrent to malign influence in the region.”
While the letter doesn’t provide any assurance or a timeline for the sale, it emphasizes that Washington’s punitive actions after Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 systems represent “a significant price paid.”
“The Administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests, as well as U.S. national security, economic and commercial interests that are supported by appropriate U.S. defence trade ties with Turkey,” the letter said.
“The proposed sale will require a Congressional notification if the Department of State were to approve it,” it added.