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Washington gives green light to the F-16s requested by Turkey | War in Ukraine

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A Turkish Air Force F-16 plane (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

Ending months of negotiations, the American government on Friday gave the green light to the sale of F-16 fighter planes to Turkey, for an amount of $23 billion, following Ankara's ratification of Sweden's membership in NATO.

The sale will see Turkey acquire 40 new F-16s and Greece 40 F-35s for $8 billion, the State Department said Friday.

The latter formally notified Congress of these sales, as required by American law, late Friday.

The United States waited to do this until the official documents signed by Turkey for Swedish membership in NATO were physically deposited in Washington, said this official, testifying to the ultra-sensitive nature of the negotiations surrounding this agreement.

US law also requires that Congress be notified of any sale of US arms to a foreign government.

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The F-16 affair for Turkey, which needs them to modernize its air force, is the story of a long saga which has fueled discussions between the United States and Turkey in the wake of the Swedish candidacy for the Atlantic Alliance.

The Turkish Parliament approved Stockholm's accession on Tuesday, putting an end to 20 months of negotiations which tested the patience of Ankara's Western allies, eager to form a united front against Moscow in the context of the ;invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a showdown, first demanding a series of reforms from Sweden and then setting a condition for this simultaneous sale of American F-16 planes.

To satisfy Ankara's demands, Sweden reformed its Constitution and adopted a new anti-terrorism law, with Turkey accusing Sweden of being too lenient towards activists Kurds refugees on its soil, some considered terrorists by Ankara.

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In 2022, the Turkish president accused Finland and Sweden of hosting “terrorists” from the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan.

Sweden announced in May 2022, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, its candidacy for NATO, at the same time as Finland, which in April became the 31st member of NATO. the organization.

If the American government has always been favorable to the sale of F-16s to Turkey, elected representatives in Congress, particularly Democrats were opposed to it and blocked the file arguing the negative record of human rights in Turkey and the tensions with Greece.

And they directly linked this contract to Turkish ratification.

As a result, the Biden administration held back until this Friday from notifying Congress.

The influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Ben Cardin, expressed his agreement for the sale in a press release released Friday evening, stressing that he had not taken this decision lightly. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken led an intense diplomatic sequence between Athens and Ankara to obtain this agreement, going as far as to repeat three times to the Turkish president during a trip to Ankara just after the earthquake in February 2023, that there would be no planes without ratification, according to the official.< /p>

The agreement required Athens to first undertake not to obstruct the sale, and Athens was granted simultaneous operation of more advanced F-35s, according to this source.

Athens has strongly contested the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara due to long-standing territorial disputes with Turkey in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean region.

This new enlargement of NATO is not, however, completely finished.

Hungary remains to ratify Swedish membership despite promises from Budapest that it would not be the last country to give the green light.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has once again shown that he is the most unreliable member of NATO, lamented Senator Ben Cardin.

In Washington, they say they expect it to take a few more weeks, but that Hungary has committed to moving forward. x27;before, which makes it possible to envisage a flag-raising ceremony during a next NATO ministerial, at its headquarters in Brussels in April.

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