WSJ: Biden admin asks Congress to approve upgrade of Turkey's F-16 fighter jets

Turkish F-16 fighter jets Turkey Biden

The administration of Joe Biden has asked the leaders of the US Congress to approve the sale of advanced weapons systems and other equipment for Turkey's F-16 fighter jet fleet, said American officials as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

In this way, the ground is being prepared for an imminent proposal to sell additional aircraft to Turkey, which seeks to redefine its relations with Washington in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The proposed arms sale, sent to congressional leaders last month, highlights how Turkey seeks to use its role as mediator in the Russia-Ukraine peace talks and its support for the Ukrainian military as a means to an end to restore relations with Washington.

The main purpose is to acquire sophisticated weapons in the wake of facing restrictions after purchasing the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system. The possible deal will include missiles, radar and electronic systems for Turkey's F-16s.

Turkey has hosted two rounds of talks between Kyiv and Moscow, and has also supplied armed drones to Ukraine and prevented some Russian warships from entering the Black Sea.

These moves have resulted in the tightening of ties with Washington and the more frequent contact of Turks with American officials, writes the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. officials familiar with the matter said the government could use the missile deal to measure the level of support in Congress for a separate proposal to sell 40 new F-16s to Turkey.

US and Turkish officials have argued in favour of the F-16 deal, saying it could help restore US-Turkish relations, which have been hit hard by Ankara's choice to buy the S-400 from Russia.

Some U.S. lawmakers, including high-ranking Democrats in both Houses of Congress, oppose the sale of the aircraft, citing objections to Ankara's ties with Russia and human rights concerns inside Turkey.

Sale of AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AIM-120 Amraam missiles, along with radar and other equipment will cost Turkey more than $ 400 million, said an official familiar with the proposal.

A spokesperson said that the State Department does not publicly confirm or comment on the proposed defense transfers until they are officially notified to Congress.

The newspaper added that the Turkish Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration's urgings to Congress comes as Turkey violated Greek airspace over 70 times in a single day earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Turkey proceeded with 74 violations of Greece’s national airspace and 12 violations of the air traffic rules in the Athens Flight Information Region.

Of the 74 violations, 29 were committed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 30 by ATR-72 naval cooperation aircraft and 15 by F-16 fighter jets. A total of 18 Turkish F-16 fighters flew over islets, two of which were armed.

The Turkish aircraft flew to the Northeast, Central and Southeast Aegean and, according to Greek military authorities, were identified and intercepted in accordance with international rules and established practice.

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