Kalın: US should find a formula for F-16 sale to Türkiye
The United Stated administration should generate a formula to overcome the congressional blockage in front of the sale of F-16 warplanes to Türkiye, a senior Turkish official said, rejecting any attempt to introduce conditionality, including the Swedish accession to NATO, to this procurement.
“This is the Biden administration that has to persuade the Congress. The administration said it endorses the F-16 sale. We welcome this but there are those who want to condition it with the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Another formula should be found,” İbrahim Kalın, the chief foreign policy advisor and presidential spokesman, said in an interview to the private broadcaster, NTV, late on March 25.
“I don’t know what that formula might be, but this is an internal matter of the U.S.,” he added.
Türkiye demanded the supply of 40 new F-16 jetfighters and 79 modernization kits from the U.S. in order to reinforce its air forces after it was expelled from the F-35 fifth generation warplane program due to its procurement and deployment of the Russian S-400 air defense systems.
Washington said it supports the deal but underlines the need for a congressional approval. A bi-partisan group of congressmen appealed from the White House for the suspension of the arms deal with Türkiye because of its delaying of the accession processes of Sweden and Finland into NATO.
Recalling that he held talks in the U.S. with a number of congressmen as well as administration officials in mid-March, Kalın said “I told them ‘If you put a condition with [regard to the membership of] Sweden and Finland, it would be an illogical mistake.’ Distinguish these issues from each other.”
Pressuring Türkiye over the NATO expansion is wrong and can trigger a counter move from Türkiye, Kalın said. “They remain without an answer when I ask them ‘What will you do if we tell you that we won’t approve Sweden’s bid until you give your consent to the sale of F-16s to Türkiye?’ Don’t put pressure on Türkiye. That won’t work.”
‘Türkiye has options’
Türkiye has other ways to find alternatives if the U.S. does not provide these warplanes, Kalın said, “Of course we endorse this [F-16] program. But we are not in a mood that we will face weakness if this sale is not accomplished. We are not in a panic. We are assessing other alternatives as well.”
Türkiye is building its own military equipment, including drones, like the Kızılelma (red apple) with similar qualifications to the F-16s, Kalın stressed, “All depends on the move of the U.S.”
Swedish accession to NATO
On a question, Kalın confirmed that Finland no longer has problems in terms of entering NATO as the approval process has already been launched.
“The doors for Sweden are not closed but the pace of the process and how it is going to be accomplished depends on the steps to be taken by Sweden. The new government [in Sweden] is sincere and exerting efforts to this end,” he said.
The new anti-terror legislation will enter into force by June 1, Kalın stressed. Sweden is hoping to join the alliance before the July 11-12 summit of the NATO leaders in Lithuania.