| 15 April 2024, Monday |

US to move forward with transfer of F-16 jets to Turkey: Sullivan

On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated that Washington will proceed with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, in coordination with Congress. This announcement came a day after Ankara granted approval for Sweden to become a member of NATO.
Turkey, which had been the main stumbling bloc on Sweden’s path towards the alliance, had requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.

Speaking ahead of a summit of NATO leaders that started on Tuesday in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Sullivan said US President Joe Biden “had been clear that he supports the transfer.”

“He has placed no caveats on this … He intends to move forward with that transfer,” Sullivan told reporters, without giving any details on the timing.

Both Turkish officials and the Biden administration have rejected any suggestion that Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s NATO accession was being linked to the F-16 sale in the months of talks to address Turkish opposition.

However, some diplomats believe that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been using Swedish membership to pressure Washington on the warplanes.

One former French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud, wrote on Twitter in response to Sullivan’s announcement that “‘The Swedish blackmail’ paid.”

To explain its opposition to Sweden’s NATO accession, Ankara had accused it of not doing enough against people Turkey sees as terrorists, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the United States.

A statement issued by Turkey and Sweden on Monday said Sweden had reiterated that it would not provide support to the Kurdish groups and would actively support efforts to reinvigorate Turkey’s EU accession process.

“There seems to have been a big push by the Biden administration to allow Turkey to modernize its air force and acquire new F-16s,” said Camille Grand, a defense specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

“This push together with the Swedish efforts on the PKK front might have played an important role in convincing Erdogan to move forward on Sweden.”

The timing of both the F-16 transfer and Sweden’s NATO entry remains unclear.

Turkey’s parliament is not scheduled to convene until after the summer, and Hungary also still needs to ratify the accession treaty, although Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “only a technical issue.”

All NATO states to need to ratify a new member.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Erdogan had agreed to push ratification in parliament “as soon as possible,” but he could not give a specific calendar.

It took two weeks for Turkey’s parliament to ratify Finland’s membership. Finland had applied alongside Sweden after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 overturned the two Nordic nation’s security considerations.

  • alarabiya