U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration supports the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, and expressed confidence that both Sweden and Finland will soon join the NATO alliance, as he visited Ankara for talks Monday with Turkish leaders.
The U.S. Congress must approve the $20 billion F-16 sale, which includes a Turkish request for 40 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits.
Blinken said during a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that he could not provide a timeline on formally notifying Congress about the proposed sale, but that he has been actively communicating the Biden administration’s support for the deal.
“This is very important for ongoing NATO interoperability and in the national security of the United States,” Blinken said.
Cavusoglu said the F-16 issue should not be tied to Turkey ratifying Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Turkey and Hungary remain the only NATO members that have not approved Sweden and Finland joining the alliance in a process that must be unanimous.
Blinken said the United States supports the admission of Sweden and Finland “as soon as possible.”
He said he is “confident that NATO will formally welcome them in soon, and when that happens, it will enhance the security of every NATO member, including the United States, including Turkiye.”
Turkey has expressed security concerns regarding Sweden, saying it has been too lenient toward groups that Turkey considers terror organizations.
Cavusoglu said all parties need to convince Sweden to address those concerns, and that Turkey sees terrorism financing, recruitment and propaganda continuing in Sweden.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week during his own visit to Turkey that “the time is now” for Turkey to ratify both countries as new NATO members.
Blinken also met Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a session that was closed to the press.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken and Erdogan discussed support for Ukraine, and the U.S. commitment to aid Turkey in its earthquake recovery efforts.
Blinken on Sunday announced pledges of $100 million in addition U.S. aid for Turkey and Syria after the February 6 earthquake that has killed more than 44,000 people.
He is due to travel later Monday to Greece where the State Department said he will “discuss defense cooperation, energy security, and our shared commitment to defend democracy” with leaders there. (KB/VOA)