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Turkey receives US draft letter approving F-16 sale

The submission of the acceptance and offer letters marks a new turn in the Turkish bid, which has been pending since 2021.

ANKARA — Turkey has received a letter of acceptance and a draft offer for a new F-16 sale package from the United States, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced on Thursday. 

Representatives of both countries are scheduled to convene and finalize the deal once Turkey completes its evaluation of the draft offer, a high-level official told reporters during a press briefing at the ministry. "At the meeting, joint examinations and evaluations will be carried out. Subsequently, the agreement will be finalized," he added. 

The submission of the acceptance and offer letters marks another turn in the Turkish deal, which has been pending since 2021. A breakthrough in the process came with Turkey's ratification of Sweden's membership to NATO on Jan. 23 after nearly two years of objections, as the transatlantic alliance's expansion became a foreign policy agenda item for the White House amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

In early February, the US Congress approved the roughly $23 billion sale to Turkey of 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70s and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet. 

"The total cost of this agreement will become clear during the finalization stage," the official said. 

Apart from the 32 F-16 C Block 70 aircraft, eight F-16 D Block 70 aircraft and upgrade kits, the package also involves ammunition and other defense equipment, according to the formal notification the State Department sent to Congress. 

NATO member Turkey tabled its request for the sale after its expulsion in 2020 from the F-35 program, a consortium manufacturing the new generation fighter jets, over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Ankara is also looking to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets manufactured by a European consortium including Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. 

Ankara's bid has secured approval from Spain and the United Kingdom but is still waiting on Germany, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said in November. 

Speaking on Thursday, the Turkish defense official said the Turkish bid was a top agenda item during Guler's talks with his British counterpart, Grant Shapps, and other British officials in the United Kingdom earlier this week. 

"Technical talks with the UK and the manufacturer are continuing," he said, adding that Ankara is awaiting Germany's go-ahead for the sale.