Menendez: Turkey must ‘end belligerence’ toward Greece to get F-16s

Menendez: Turkey must ‘end belligerence’ toward Greece to get F-16s

US Senator Robert Menedez (D-NJ), the powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says that Turkey should not get new F-16 fighter planes and upgrade kits until they “end their belligerence” towards Greece, news site Politico reports.

“They need to end their belligerence against their fellow NATO members [to include] the Hellenic Republic,” he said. “They need to stop overflights, they have to permit the ecumenical patriarch to exercise his rights as the religious leader of millions of people around the world. Those are some of the things.” 

Turkey’s request for 40 F-16s and about 80 upgrade kits is valued at $20 billion.

Politico reports that Menendez backed a much smaller modernization contract for Turkey, for a $259 million avionics software upgrade for Turkey’s existing F-16s.

That sale “was just to create interoperability in communications among NATO allies. I felt that was a worthy goal,” Menendez said in an interview explaining his approval, Politico reported. “It shows Turkey that if they change their attitude, the door’s not closed to them, but I’m still against the F-16.”

Another major issue pitting Turkey against its fellow NATO members is its blocking of Sweden’s accession as the Atlantic alliance’s 32nd member, on the pretext is too supportive of Kurds, whom Ankara labels as terrorists. US officials believe that Turkey will shift its stance once the presidential election, set for May 14th, is over, whoever is a winner; many in the US think that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the issue to play to his base in an election that seems too close to comfort for him.

But Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership may not be enough to unblock the F-16 sale, as Menendez has indicated.

“There may be other things that are going to be important for Turkey to do as well, from my perspective, but the least common denominator here has to be support for Sweden’s entry into NATO,” Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who serves alongside Menendez at the Foreign Relations Committee, said.

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