National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the Biden administration will move forward with a $20 billion sale of Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
Sullivan’s comments came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to back Sweden’s NATO bid after over a year of negotiations. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Erdogan would submit Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkey’s parliament for approval.
Sullivan insisted that the F-16 sale to Turkey and the issue of Sweden’s NATO bid were not related. However, President Biden previously made clear that the two issues were linked.
After speaking with Erdogan in May, Biden said: “He still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done. And so we’ll be back in touch with one another.”
US officials also previously told The Wall Street Journal that Congress would not approve the F-16 deal until Turkey supported both Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO.
“President Biden has been clear for months that he supports the transfer of F-16s to Turkey, that this is in our national interest and the interest of NATO,” Sullivan told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius. “He’s placed no caveats or conditions on that.”
After Turkey approved Finland’s NATO bid, the State Department approved a $259 million sale to Ankara for kits to upgrade their current F-16s. The kits were initially supposed to be part of the deal for the new F-16s.
While Erdogan has given his approval for Sweden’s NATO bid, it’s still unclear when Stockholm will officially join the alliance. The Turkish parliament needs to vote on the issue, and Hungary is still holding out on giving its approval for Sweden to join.