U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez on Monday expressed his clear opposition to the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey.
Speaking to Mega TV he said that the U.S. State Department should adopt a firmer stance toward Turkey instead of calling on both Greece and Turkey to tone down their rhetoric or find a peaceful way to resolve their differences when only one side was being belligerent.
Menendez also welcomed the sale of F-35 jets to Greece, noting that Greece has proven itself a strong ally in NATO, with a government and a people that “share our values”, while noting that this plays an important role in the sale of American military equipment abroad.
Expanding on this, when asked what will happen with the sale of F-16s to Turkey, the U.S. senator replied:
“I would aspire for Turkey to be different than it is under President Erdogan. For Turkey to be a reliable NATO ally, to follow international norms, to not be belligerent to its neighbors, to not arrest and imprison journalists and lawyers. To not suddenly declare one of your main political opponents guilty in order to disqualify them from standing in the elections.
Menendez: Biden can use F-16s to change Turkey’s stance
“It is in that context that I have opposed the sale of the F-16s because the reality is that we have not seen a Turkey under Erdogan that lives up to those expectations.”
Instead, he added, “what we have seen is a Turkey that threatens another NATO ally, the Hellenic Republic and threatens it without justification, without cause.”
So, he said, in his opinion, it would be “baffling” to sell military equipment to Turkey when it takes such actions and when it clearly demonstrates, again and again, some of its intentions.
He also said that the Biden administration might use his own stance toward the sale as a way to get Turkey to act differently and, if that happens, “it could be a positive thing”. But as of now, Menendez added, he intends to continue to do what he has said he would do, which is to not approve the sale.
Asked how Turkey’s continued compliance might be ensured after the sale – even in the case that the Biden administration uses his stance to pressure Turkey and it agrees to stop threatening Greece in order to receive the aircraft – Menendez agreed that this would require more than words.
Actions would also be required, he said, and it was necessary to consider what conditions should be applied and what actions will be required on Turkey’s part to ensure that the Turkish government takes on the responsibility to implement its commitments in such a sale.
He also noted that the US was “nowhere near that point at this time” and that “we may come to that point if, and only if, we can have Turkey abandon its belligerent position both to the Hellenic Republic, to Cyprus, as well as to other actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which are adverse to our national interest and our national security.”
U.S. Plan to Sell F-16s to Turkey and F-35s to Greece
The US administration is reportedly considering selling F-16 jets to Turkey and fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to Greece, a plan that has alarmed Ankara.
In an attempt to keep both NATO allies happy and maintain a balance of power in the Aegean, US media say that the Biden administration is intensifying its pressure on Congress to approve the strategy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story earlier in January, the administration hopes that by getting the Turkish F-16 deal approved by Congress, Ankara will drop its objections to the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO.
Related: Sen. Menendez Blasts Turkey’s Erdogan for Threatening to Hit Athens