Skip to main content

Turkey welcomes Biden’s F-16 letter to Congress, expects 'positive' conclusion

Following its ratification of Sweden’s membership in NATO, Ankara has turned to the Biden administration for progress on the F-16 sale.
ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

ANKARA — The Turkish Defense Ministry on Thursday welcomed President Joe Biden’s letter to Congress calling for its approval of new F-16 sales to Ankara, but pressed for more.

“We deem the recommendation letter sent to Congress by US President Biden for approval of the sale as a positive step. What really needs to be done is to submit the request to the Congress and to initiate the official process,” a high-level Turkish Defense official told reporters during a weekly press briefing. “We express once again our expectation for the process to be concluded positively.”

Biden sent a letter to the foreign relations committees in both houses to inform them of his plans to formally initiate the sale process, calling on them to approve the sale "without delay,” Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing US officials.

​​Turkey tabled its demand to buy 40 new F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits for $20 billion in 2021, after it was ousted from the consortium that manufactures the new generation F-35 program. NATO member Turkey — with the alliance's second-largest standing military, after the United States — was excluded from the program under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in 2020 over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. 

The Biden administration publicly endorsed the sale last year, but the State Department has yet to officially notify Congress of the sale amid opposition by some lawmakers who threatened to block the sale, citing what they described as Turkish aggression toward its US allies in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece. 

Turkey, in turn, had sought assurances on the sale from Washington before giving its final green light for Sweden’s accession to NATO. The Turkish parliament ratified the Swedish bid Tuesday, dropping more than a year and a half of objections. Hungary, the last holdout, is expected to follow suit. 

After a phone call with Biden in early January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US leader had assured him that the F-16 deal would go through once the Swedish ratification was done. 

The ratification will become official after publication in Turkey’s Official Gazette.

Separately, US Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake said he was “very hopeful” on the F-16s following the ratification. 

“I often talk to my old friends in Congress. Frankly, they attach great importance to Sweden's membership in NATO. … But of course the sale falls within the jurisdiction of Congress. They will assess this issue,” Flake was quoted as telling Hurriyet on Thursday in an exclusive interview.