A Turkish delegation will visit Washington next week to follow up on U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge to deliver F-16 fighter jets for Türkiye’s air force, Ankara said Tuesday.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the team would arrive in Washington on Monday upon the invitation of U.S. officials.
But he stressed that Ankara remained firmly opposed to conditions on the sale sought by some members of Congress who worry about Türkiye’s tense relations with Greece.
“We cannot accept these conditions. Our wish is that the Senate removes them,” Akar said in televised remarks.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would bar the sale to Ankara unless the administration certifies that doing so is essential to U.S. national security. It also includes a description of concrete steps taken to ensure they are not used for “unauthorized overflights” of Greece.
Ankara rejected the bill, saying it is not binding. Akar last month called on the U.S. not to fall for the “game” being played by certain lawmakers against the potential sale of F-16 jets.
Türkiye has sought to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from the United States.
Biden said he wanted Congress to approve the F-16 sale after meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of a June NATO summit in Madrid. Erdoğan has said he believes the sale will go through after talks with Biden in June.
“Biden’s approach was very positive in Madrid,” Akar said.
Last month’s bill marks the latest effort by the House, known for its anti-Ankara stance that has repeatedly damaged bilateral relations, to exert control over the sale of the Lockheed Martin aircraft to Türkiye.
The process to finalize the defense bill, known as NDAA, is lengthy, and the Senate will also have to back similar language before it can be sent to Biden’s desk to be signed into law. Revisions to the bill in its current form are all but certain. However, the president can veto such legislation.
The decades-old partnership between the two NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over disagreements on many issues, including Syria and Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow.
But the Biden administration has been more supportive of Türkiye since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Türkiye made a request to buy 40 F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes, in what is estimated to be a $6 billion deal.
The sale of U.S. weapons to Türkiye became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 defense missile systems, triggering U.S. sanctions as well as Türkiye’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.