A delegation of members of Türkiye’s ruling party departed for Washington on Tuesday to hold talks on the potential sale of the F-16 fighter jets, as the prolonged process continues to top the agenda in bilateral contacts.
Officials have been expressing optimism that the deal could be finalized despite a bill approved by American lawmakers that created a new hurdle for any purchase by Türkiye.
Yet, Ankara has vowed it may consider alternatives, including Russia, if the United States fails to follow through on its promise to deliver F-16s to Turkish air forces.
Led by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chair in charge of foreign affairs, Efkan Ala, the delegation will hold talks with members of U.S. Congress and senators during the three-day visit.
The delegation includes Akif Çağatay Kılıç, head of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission, Osman Aşkın Bak, chair of the Turkish delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Volkan Bozkır, AK Party Istanbul deputy and Mehdi Eker, AK Party Diyarbakır deputy.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week said negotiations on sales of F-16 jets were “going on positively,” adding that he may later discuss this issue over the phone with U.S. President Joe Biden.
Erdoğan also said he had received “positive” feedback from two U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Chris Coons, whom he met with in New York last week on their potential support for the sale of F-16s to Türkiye.
Türkiye has been seeking to modernize its air fleet and sought to buy 40 F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits from the U.S. Biden has said he supports the sale and that he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Türkiye’s air force.
Erdoğan earlier this month said his country might turn to other countries, such as Russia, should the talks on F-16s fail.
The House of Representatives in July approved legislation that would bar the sale to Ankara unless the Biden 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 has been voicing its firm opposition to any conditions on the sale of the jets.
Erdoğan expressed hopes that the U.S. will “not lead” Türkiye to “different tracks.”
“The U.S. is not the only one selling warplanes in the world. The U.K., France and Russia sell them as well,” he said. “It’s possible to procure them from other places, and others are sending us signals.”
The sale of U.S. weapons to Türkiye became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 defense missile systems. The deal triggered U.S. sanctions as well as Türkiye’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.