US predicts quick F-16 sale to Turkey post-Sweden's NATO approval

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, anticipates a quick approval from President Tayyip Erdogan on Sweden's NATO membership, potentially hastening U.S. Congress's endorsement of an F-16 fighter jet sale to Ankara.

Publication: 25.01.2024 - 11:29
US predicts quick F-16 sale to Turkey post-Sweden's NATO approval
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In a recent interview, Flake noted that once Turkey formally ratifies Sweden's NATO bid and sends the documentation to Washington, the U.S. State Department will immediately notify Congress of the proposed $20 billion F-16 sale.

Turkey's parliament ratified Sweden's NATO membership on Tuesday, marking significant progress in expanding the Western military alliance after a 20-month delay. Erdogan's signature on the legislation and its publication in Turkey's Official Gazette are the remaining steps, along with sending Sweden's instrument of accession to Washington.

Asked about the timeline, Flake, a former U.S. Republican senator, told Reuters, "Yes, I do expect this within days." He added, "I see no reason for delay from Turkey. Once it's conveyed to Washington, congressional notification of the F-16 sales will follow."

Erdogan and U.S. Congress members have linked Turkey's support for Sweden's NATO bid to the congressional approval of the Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) aircraft and modernization kits sale to Turkey.

President Joe Biden informed key Capitol Hill committee leaders on Wednesday of his intention to start the formal F-16 sale notification process following Ankara's finalization of Sweden's NATO accession.

Sweden applied to join the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2022 to enhance its security amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. All NATO members must agree to new admissions. Turkey initially objected, citing Sweden's sheltering of groups it labels terrorists. This led Stockholm to implement a new security law.

Flake, who has been the envoy during this process, remarked that Sweden has adequately addressed Turkey's security concerns. He has been in communication with the heads of the U.S. House and Senate foreign relations committees, including those with reservations about selling F-16s to Turkey due to its human rights record and the delays in Sweden's NATO membership.

"There are members of Congress who insisted that Sweden's NATO membership precede the F-16 sale," Flake stated. "But they recognize Turkey's value in NATO and the importance of interoperability that the F-16 modernization brings."

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