Turkey is demanding that the US should either change its decision on the F-35 stealth fighter supply program or return the money paid, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
“As for the F-35, Congress needs to reconsider its decision. We say either change the decision or return the money we invested,” Cavusoglu told Turkish news agency Anadolu.
In 2019, the US suspended Turkey’s participation in its F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system and later completely removed it from the project. Despite harsh backlash from the US and NATO over the purchase, Turkey has insisted that it will continue to use the S-400s.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later announced that the US suggested that Ankara procure the fourth generation of the F-16 fighter jets instead of the fifth generation F-35s.
The US Congress has yet to approve the deal while the US State Department is lobbying for it, convincing congressmen that it will “serve Washington’s interests.” On the other hand, US’ ally Greece has been insisting that Washington drops the deal with Turkey.
Earlier, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said will soon begin negotiations with Washington on the acquisition of F-35 stealth warplanes as part of efforts to boost both the Greek armed forces and NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks.
“We will launch the process for the acquisition of a squadron of F-35 aircraft, and we do hope to be able to add this fantastic plane to the Greek Air Force before the end of this decade,” Mitsotakis said at a White House reception hosted by US President Joe Biden on Monday.
Mitsotakis noted that bilateral ties between Athens and Washington are currently at their highest level, as evidenced by the recently signed pacts. In particular, the Greek navy and NATO forces have been working together at the naval base at Souda Bay on Crete and in the port of Alexandroupolis, located about 500 miles south of the Ukrainian border.
Mitsotakis also pointed out the need for the US and Europe to stand together in supporting Ukraine and the core values of liberal democracies.
“Neo-imperial fantasies belong to other centuries. They must not succeed. And they must not succeed not only for the sake of Ukraine but to send a very clear signal to other authoritarian leaders that any violation of sovereignty will be met by a unified and forceful response,” the Mitsotakis said.
Mitsotakis called for further sanctions against Russia, stressing, however, the need to bring down high energy prices that have put a heavy burden on populations.
“As we reduce our dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, we also need to use our market power as larger purchases of gas to deliver short-term relief to our households and our businesses,” the Greek prime minister said.
In addition, he urged Biden to promote the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus settlement.
“You are extremely knowledgeable about the Cyprus issue. And please, use all your influence to put the negotiation process back on track in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. No one — no one can or will accept a two-state solution in Cyprus,” Mitsotakis said.
The Greek prime minister concluded by noting that relations between Athens and Washington go far beyond shared security and can boast active cooperation in trade, tourism and technology, as well as a large number of cultural exchanges.
Turkey Banks On F-16s
Earlier in May, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Ankara is desiring that the acquisition of Lockheed F-16 fighters will be approved by Washington for sale to Turkey.
Akar pointed to a letter on the issue sent by the US State Department to the US Congress in March, saying it contained promising moments. However, according to the minister, Washington’s ultimate position remains unclear.
“This is a lengthy process. We hope that it will result positively. Is it possible for the F-16 issue to have a positive outcome? It is possible… But is it for sure? No. We are watching the developments closely. If we purchase new F-16s, it will support our air force until we produce our national combat aircraft,” Akar said.
The leaked letter of the US State Department to Congress, which opposed the F-16 procurement by Turkey, contained the Biden administration’s view of the merits of the deal. Notably, the letter called for the endorsement of the purchase since defense trade ties with Turkey contributes to both the US national security interests and “compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests.”
Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the US suggested that Ankara procure the fourth generation of the F-16 fighter jets instead of the fifth generation F-35s.
The US Congress has yet to approve the F-16 deal, with the situation being complicated by reports that Greece is exerting pressure on the US so that Washington does not sell upgraded F-16 combat aircraft to Turkey, citing its own security concerns.