Bob Menendez puts a halt to Turkey's F-16 upgrade plan

Turkey Turkish F-16 bob menendez

The celebration Turkey was having over the US supposedly agreeing to a deal for an F-16 upgrade package was put to an end by Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Bob Menendez, who made it clear that the defence budget does not constitute a victory for Erdogan.

“This is just one of many tools we have at our disposal in the Senate to deal with arms sales. I’ll say it again, as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I will not approve F-16s for Turkey until Erdogan halts his abuses across the region," Menendez said in a social media post.

It was preceded by solemn statements by Turkish officials and the media about the final text of the US Congressional National Defense Act (NDAA), which will be put to a final vote, and there are no conditions for the sale of F-16s to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described as a "positive development" the fact that there is no negative element for Ankara in the final text that will be put to a vote.

“This needs to be finalised as soon as possible. This law must be passed. We need to buy F-16s and the modernisation of the existing ones needs to be completed as a process. This is in everyone's best interest. We've said before that there's no point in buying them if there are conditions," he said.

As it became known in the telephone conversation that the representative of the Turkish presidency Ibrahim Kalin had on Wednesday with the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, among other things, the issue of the "unconditional completion" of the approval process for the procurement and modernisation of the F-16s by Congress was raised.

In the same climate, the pro-government media emphasise that the conditions for the sale of F-16s to Turkey have been withdrawn, which is a "defeat" for Greece and the Greek-American lobby.

Congress on Turkey overflights: They should not happen

It should be noted, however, that Ankara ignores the clear message sent by the US Congress against unauthorised Turkish flights over the Greek islands, with what is mentioned in the accompanying text of the defence budget, which is considered a statement of legislative intent to the Biden administration.

"We believe that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies should not conduct unauthorized territorial overflights of another NATO ally’s airspace," US lawmakers note in the explanatory text accompanying the NDAA.

At the same time that the tension with Athens hits ... "red", Ankara seems to be choosing to proceed with solving its problems with countries it has been at rift with in the past, but not with Greece.

With his statements, the representative of the Turkish presidency, Ibrahim Kalin, spoke directly about his country's desire to minimise the problems with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Egypt, but without including Greece.

"Let's minimise the problems with the countries we have problems with, open the doors of communication and increase the number of our friends, without conflicts with the neighbours," he said, "inaugurating" a new doctrine in Turkish foreign policy, which apparently does not include Greece.

He himself admitted that there is no one-way street in foreign policy, but ... ups and downs. This official change is also directly related to the crucial Presidential Elections of 2022 which will determine the future of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

State Department: Greece and Turkey to resolve their differences diplomatically

The US urges that any disagreements between the NATO allies be resolved diplomatically, the State Department spokesman underlined, Ned Price, regarding the threats launched by the Turkish Foreign Minister against Greece.

During the regular briefing of diplomatic editors, the US State Department spokesman noted that “Greece is an important ally. Turkey is an important ally. We are continuing to work with all parties to de-escalate tensions in the region when it comes to Turkey, when it comes to Syria, and when it comes to other heightened tensions in the region."

In the wake of the publication of the final text of the US defence budget (NDAA), Ned Price was asked by the correspondent of the Turkish network TRT about the State Department's latest estimates regarding the level at which the F-16 sale process is.

The spokesman replied that "Turkey is an important NATO Ally. It’s an important security partner. We want to ensure that our defense capabilities are integrated and that Turkey has what it needs to take on the formidable threats that it faces. No NATO Ally has faced more terrorist attacks on its soil than our Turkish Allies. And so our cooperation in the security realm is of paramount importance to us. This was an issue that the two presidents discussed when they gathered over the summer in Madrid at the NATO Summit. It’s been a discussion at lower levels as well. It’s been a discussion that we’ve had with Congress, and of course, we have an ongoing dialogue with Congress on this very issue, but I just don’t have an update to offer publicly."

Ned Price was then asked about the reaction of Senator Robert Menendez, who tweeted that “contrary to some claims, the NDAA is not a win for Turkey. This is just one of many tools we have at our disposal in the Senate to deal with arm sales. I'll say it again. As SRFC Chairman, I will not approve F-16s for Turkey until Erdogan halts his abuses across the region."

In response to this specific question, Ned Price reiterated his original position, saying that the discussions the State Department is having are focused on ensuring the capabilities that Turkey needs to have in order to be able to fulfill its role as a NATO ally.

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