Ending months of negotiations, the US government on Friday approved a $23 billion deal to sell F-16 warplanes to Turkey, after Ankara ratified Sweden’s NATO membership, the State Department said.
As required by US law, the State Department notified Congress of the agreement, as well as a separate $8.6 billion sale of 40 F-35s to Greece.
All instruments of ratification must be deposited in the US capital — a city NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will visit next week, and which will host a summit in July to mark the 75th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
But Erdogan then turned to an unmet US pledge to deliver a batch of F-16 fighter jets that has met resistance in Congress because of Turkey’s perceived backsliding on human rights and standoffs with fellow NATO member Greece.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Turkey over two visits in the past three months that the Swedish candidacy’s ratification could help break congressional resistance to the F-16 sale.
The US agreement with Turkey hinged first on Athens not obstructing the sale, for which it was given access to more F-35s, the US source said.
Turkey’s ageing air force would benefit from new F-16s, as it has suffered from Ankara’s expulsion from the US-led F-35 joint strike fighter program in 2019 over Erdogan’s decision to acquire an advanced Russian missile defense system.
Turkey’s green light of Swedish NATO membership leaves Hungary as the last holdout in an accession process that Sweden and Finland began in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.