US President Joe Biden on Thursday said the United States supports the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and that he is confident the congressional approval needed for the sale can be obtained.
Speaking at a news conference in Madrid at the conclusion of a NATO summit, he rejected suggestions that Washington’s support for the sale was in return for Turkey lifting its block to the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland.
“What I said was, I said back in December, as you’ll recall, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well,” he said. “It’s not in our interest not to do that.”
“And there was no quid pro quo with that. It was just that we should sell, but I need congressional approval to be able to do that. And I think we can get that.”
Turkey made a request in October to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
Sentiment toward Turkey in the US Congress has turned sour over the past few years after Ankara acquired Russian-made defense missile systems, triggering US sanctions as well as Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.
On Wednesday, a senior Biden administration official also openly expressed support for the sale. Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary for defense for international security affairs at the Pentagon, told reporters on a call that strong Turkish defense capabilities would reinforce NATO’s defenses. [Reuters]