Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday that the US should approve a $20 billion F-16 sale to Turkey despite objections from some members of Congress.
“As we said together before, this is not only for Turkey but also important for NATO and for the United States as well,” Cavusoglu said ahead of the meeting. “So we expect the approval in line with our joint strategic interests.”
According to the Turkish broadcaster TRT World, Cavusoglu also told Blinken to convey to Congress that the F-16 deal shouldn’t be linked to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, which Ankara has yet to approve.
The deal would be for 40 F-16 fighter jets and 79 kits to upgrade Turkey’s existing fleet. It has the support of the Biden administration, but after the potential deal was first reported, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came out strongly against the sale.
The administration has yet to notify Congress of the potential deal, but Menendez’s position suggests lawmakers may try to block it, although they could be looking to use it as leverage to get Turkey to sign off on Sweden and Finland joining NATO. US officials told The Wall Street that they are trying to convince Turkey to approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid, with one official calling the F-16 sale a “carrot on a stick.”
The US and Turkey are also at odds over Ankara’s steps toward rapprochement with the Syrian government. While no deals have been signed, Russia is working on setting up a meeting between Syria and Turkey’s foreign ministers after their defense ministers met for the first time since 2011. In light of the talks, the US said it was against any countries normalizing with the Assad government.
In a joint statement, the US and Turkey mentioned topics Blinken and Cavusoglu covered in their meeting, which included Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, the F-16 deal, and Syria. But it wasn’t clear if there was any concrete result from the talks.