Following Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's election victory, a senior U.S. senator, who has long been against the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, expressed his desire for Erdogan to adopt a more cooperative approach towards NATO allies and neighbouring countries. Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized that Erdogan's willingness to shift from his previous stance would be crucial in reconsidering his opposition to the deal. In a statement to reporters, Menendez stated,
"If it's the same, or more of the same, as what we've seen, then I'll still have the same positions as I've had before," Menendez said.
NATO member Turkey requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. President Joe Biden's administration has said it supports the sale and has been in touch for months with Congress to win its approval.
But it has faced opposition, notably from Menendez, over a range of issues, including Turkey's resistance to the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership, concerns about the jailing of journalists and other human rights abuses, and Turkish overflights of Greek airspace.
"Sweden is only part of the equation. For some members, it may be the whole equation. It's not for me," Menendez said.
Menendez said he had not heard from Biden about Turkey since the president's congratulatory call to Erdogan. Erdogan repeated Ankara's desire to buy the F-16s, while Biden told him Washington wanted Ankara to drop its objection to Sweden's joining NATO.