A total of 41 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken opposing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
The bipartisan letter was drafted on the initiative of Democratic Representative Chris Pappas, of New Hampshire, and the co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus, Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, and Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York.
The letter comes amid recent reports that Turkey may purchase 40 new Lockheed Martin F-16s and 80 F-16 modernization kits.
"We believe that the widespread reporting on Turkey’s request, as well as President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s own statements, provide us sufficient basis to declare our opposition to this potential sale," the letter read.
“We share your goal of a Turkey that is rooted to the West, but we will not achieve that goal if the Erdoğan government escapes accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance,” continued the lawmakers.
The effort to prevent the sale of F-16s to Turkey is supported by the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the Armenian National Committee of America, the American Friends of Kurdistan, the Hindu American Foundation, the Middle East Forum, the American Jewish Committee, PSEKA, the American Hellenic Institute, the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, and the Armenian Council of America.
Reuters reported last month that Turkey had made a request to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın confirmed the report shortly after, but noted that the issue was being evaluated.
Ankara had also previously ordered more than 100 Lockheed Martin F-35s, but the United States removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it acquired the Russian S-400s.
'A risk we find unacceptable'
"Less than one year since the imposition of these CAATSA sanctions, the Erdoğan government has made it clear that it has no intention of coming into compliance with U.S. law or dealing with the underlying conditions that led to Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 program and Congressional holds on purchases of American weapons by Turkey. Indeed, in September, President Erdoğan declared his intention of purchasing additional S-400s," the letter read.
"One of the reasons Congress insisted on Turkey’s ejection from the F-35 program was because of the significant risks associated with collocating S-400s and F-35s. Experts have noted that providing Turkey with the Block 70 modernization kits poses similar collocation risks if Ankara continues to possess Russian S-400s. Since upgraded F-16s still play such a significant role for us and our reliable allies, that is a risk that we do not find acceptable," the representatives also said.
The representatives also warned that if the U.S. administration goes ahead with the sale via invoking technicalities, they would be forced to "consider additional legislation to restrict a potential purchase."
"Finally, given the CAATSA sanctions already imposed, we anticipate that such a sale could only be finalized via invoking technicalities – for example, by trying to sell the jets to an entity other than Turkey’s SSB, which has been sanctioned. Such an approach would have to be viewed as an inappropriate circumvention of the intent of Congress and would force us to consider additional legislation to restrict a potential purchase," they said.