President Biden is backing the sale of F-16s to Turkey and says Congress will grant approval for the deal to upgrade the country’s fleet of the U.S.-made jet fighters.
The move is a sign of a potential thaw in the relationship between Ankara and its NATO allies.
At the NATO summit in Madrid, Mr. Biden said Wednesday he is grateful to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for dropping opposition to an expansion of the alliance in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I want to particularly thank you for what you did putting together the situation with regard to Finland and Sweden,” Mr. Biden said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international affairs, said the Pentagon “fully supports” Turkey’s plans to modernize its military.
“Turkey is a highly capable, highly valued, strategic NATO ally and Turkish defense capabilities, strong Turkish defense capabilities, contribute to strong NATO defense capabilities,” Ms. Wallander told reporters, according to AFP.
The enhancements to Turkey’s F-16 fleet include software and hardware upgrades along with the proposed sale of Sidewinder missiles and Advanced Medium Range Air to Air missiles, according to media reports.
The U.S. kicked Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet program in 2019 over Ankara’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
While Turkey has maintained that it still wants the more advanced F-35, it wasn’t immediately clear whether Ankara will be able to rejoin the program following the NATO summit.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan came to Madrid this week as the focus of a controversy over Ankara‘s opposition to the bids of Sweden and Finland to join the 27-nation military alliance, citing the links of their large Kurdish exile populations to militant separatists who have long battled the government inside Turkey,
But Mr. Erdogan on Thursday was expressing deep satisfaction with the summit, which included a one-on-on meeting with Mr. Biden and what the longtime Turkish leader said was complete accommodation of his country’s “sensitivities” while allowing the Swedish and Finnish applications to go forward.
Mr. Erdogan told reporters in Madrid a 10-point agreement signed with the two Nordic nations included a promise by Stockholm to extradite 73 Kurdish “terrorists” to Turkey and crack down on the financing and recruitment activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its extensions. He said Ankara also won the right to revoke the accord if Sweden and Finland did not follow through on their promises, the Associated Press reported.