Türkiye: “US to lose ‘neutrality’ in NATO if Congress approves F-35 sale to Greece”
Ankara’s request for F-16 fighter jets, NATO bids of Sweden, Finland are ‘separate processes,’ presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin says
The US will lose its “neutrality” in NATO if the American Congress approves the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Greece and opposes Türkiye’s F-16 purchase, the Turkish presidential spokesman said Tuesday.
“We’ve been hearing about the F-16 program that the Congress will introduce such a prerequisite. Such rumors or evaluations are made. We have been informed that there is no such request or desire of the administration. This is our assessment.
“If some senators, such as (Bob) Menendez, bring this as a precondition in the Congress, but simultaneously respond positively to Greece’s F-35 request, they will clearly lose their neutral position within the NATO alliance. If they make this a prerequisite, it will never be acceptable for Türkiye,” Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in the nation’s capital, Ankara.
If Congress makes the F-16 program dependent on Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, Kalin said: “It is out of the question for us to take a step back in that direction. These are separate processes.”
Türkiye made a request to Washington in 2021 for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits. The State Department informally notified Congress of the potential sale.
Ankara maintains that the jets would strengthen not only Türkiye but NATO.
“We see the F-16 program as a valuable alternative both for our own air forces and to strengthen our air force within the NATO Alliance, but the American administration or Congress, in other words, puts forward some preconditions in this regard, like saying ‘this won’t happen if you don’t do it like that and so on,’ we will go our own way. I mean, we’re not in the mood to sit here with our hands tied,” said Kalin.
Hailing Türkiye’s defense industry, Kalin said Türkiye will develop its opportunities and capabilities to ensure = national and border security and fight = terrorism.
Asked if the F-16 program is finished, Kalin said: “Depends on what condition they put in. We don’t want it to end. We want this program to continue.
“We know that the intention and desire of the (Joe) Biden administration is in this direction, but if they cannot overcome the congressional obstacle or if this issue gets stuck in the Congress, then we will look at the situation and make a new assessment.”
– Finland, Sweden NATO bids
Turning to Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids, Kalin said Türkiye has clearly stated that the membership process would not progress unless terror elements are eliminated.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which started Feb. 24, 2022.
But Türkiye, a NATO member for more than 70 years, voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Türkiye.
Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.
Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to the YPG/PYD and FETO, to prevent all activities of the terror groups, extradite terror suspects, introduce new legislation to punish terror crimes and not to implement national arms embargoes among the three countries.
About Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s greenlight to Finland’s membership, Kalin said Sweden and Finland started the process together and showed a will to continue together, which Türkiye respects.
“Will Finland make a different assessment from now on? Will they start a new process separately? This is something at their discretion. We are meeting with them, we are in consultation. Maybe in the coming weeks, there will be clarity on this issue,” he said.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Helsinki wants to join NATO with Sweden.
– Türkiye, Russia, Syria meeting
About the possibility of the inclusion of Iran into Türkiye, Russia and Syria talks, Kalin said: “We would be pleased if Iran is involved in this process.”
Stressing that Iran is an “important” regional actor, he added: “The presence of Iran contributes to the negotiations with Syria, which are conducted under the mediation of Russia.”
Previously, Erdogan said Türkiye, Russia and Syria leaders could also meet to discuss peace and stability in Syria.
Although no date or location has yet been announced, the trio of foreign ministers is expected to meet which would mark another high-level talk since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
On Dec. 28, the Turkish, Russian and Syrian defense ministers met in Moscow to discuss counterterrorism efforts in Syria and agreed to continue tripartite meetings to ensure stability in Syria and the wider region.
“Foreign ministers are discussing a date. It may be within this month, but there is no definite date and place yet. But we can expect this meeting to take place in the coming weeks,” said Kalin.
– Russia-Ukraine war
About the Russia-Ukraine war, Kalin reiterated that Türkiye conducted intense diplomatic efforts to bring the parties together.
“We urge the parties to take a path that will settle this issue through negotiation as soon as possible. We recommend. We are making efforts in this direction,” he added.
The world should focus its efforts toward the end of the war but based on a just and sustainable solution, that is, toward a plan that will end the war on the basis of the territorial integrity and security of Ukraine, he said.
Kalin hinted that an exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is on the agenda.
“Our initiatives in this direction continue under the leadership of our president, and we wish to achieve some concrete results in this regard,” he said.
Türkiye, internationally praised for its mediator role between Ukraine and Russia, has repeatedly urged Kyiv and Moscow to end the war through negotiations.