The US State Department has told Congress that the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would agree with US’ and NATO’s security interests.
Acknowledging the strained relationship between the two countries, in a letter dated March 17, the State Department described Turkey’s defense ties with Ukraine as “an important deterrent to malign influence in the region,” Reuters reported.
The correspondence was in response to a previous letter written by a group of over 50 bipartisan Congress members, which called for the rejection of Turkey’s proposed purchase of 40 F-16s over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s “lack of commitment to NATO” and his “vast human rights abuses.”
Turkey proposed the deal in October, which also includes 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
Turkey Paid ‘Significant Price’
Without committing to the deal, the State Department letter stressed that Ankara had paid a “significant price” over its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.
This includes sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry and its removal from the F-35 fighter jet program. Ankara had ordered 100 F-35s before it was removed from the program.
“The Administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests, as well as US national security, economic and commercial interests that are supported by appropriate US defense trade ties with Turkey,” the letter said, as quoted in Reuters.
“The proposed sale will require a Congressional notification if the Department of State were to approve it,” it added.