State Dept. spokesman Miller says some members of US Congress think two issues ‘are closely tied together’
The US said on Monday that the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye is not contingent on Sweden’s potential accession to NATO, but some members of the US Congress perceive a connection between the two issues.
“We do not believe that they are linked or should be linked,” said State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller at a press briefing, in response to a question by Anadolu reporter about the current status of the potential sale.
Reiterating the previous statements from the Biden administration, Miller said Washington made clear to the Turkish government that the sale of F-16s has to be approved by the US Congress.
“And there are members of Congress who believe that the two issues are closely tied together,” he said. “So while we do not believe that they’re linked, we’re not the only actor in this process. We made that clear directly to Turkish officials”.
Miller did not provide an update on a timeline.
The spokesman reiterated the US position on Sweden’s accession, saying it “should be approved as soon as possible,” adding that the US appreciates President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for it.
Ankara requested F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from Washington in October 2021, which is awaiting a green light from the US Congress. The $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 jets as well as modernization kits for 79 warplanes already in the Turkish Air Force’s inventory.
Although the Biden administration repeatedly said it wants to move forward with the sale of F-16 jets to Türkiye, key lawmakers on Capitol Hill have vowed to nix the deal over several demands, including making the purchase contingent on Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
Officials from the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, previously said the Biden administration does not link the two issues.
However, President Erdogan on Sunday said after a brief chat with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of G20 summit in New Delhi that the US makes such a connection, and it “upsets” Ankara.
“We had a quick word with Biden. We also discussed the F-16 issue,” Erdogan said at a news conference after the G-20 summit in India, “Unfortunately, friends keep bringing Sweden up when it comes to the F-16 issue. Such an approach seriously upsets us”.