ANKARA – Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that despite attempts by Greece to stop it that his country will get US-made F-16 fighter jets, which President Joe Biden is pushing hard.
Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in an address to the US Congress – without mentioning Turkey – asked them to block the sale but he has now it will likely happen anyway.
Akar said Greece and a Greek-American lobby in the US, which includes the Hellenic Caucus and bipartisan supporters of Greece in the Congress will not succeed in their hope to foil the sale.
“With various initiatives, Greece is trying to influence as much as possible the military negotiations between Turkey and the US on the acquisition and modernization of F-16s,” Akar told reporters in Ankara said Kathimerini.
“A certain group of lawmakers is causing problems (engaging in) misinformation and manipulation. We expect that the US will not be dragged into this game,” he said in a further shot.
The US House approved an amendment – sponsored by Greek American Congressman Chris Pappas – that would restrict Biden’s ability to sell the fighter jets or give the Turkish Air Force modernization kits.
That included a measure which would require Turkey not to use the jets to violate Greek airspace – indicating it was likely they would be sold – and Biden can get around it by declaring the sale is in the US national interest.
While Akar was apparently irritated about the move he said that Turkey’s push to get the F-16s will continue, especially after Biden met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO meeting in Madrid.
Biden assured Erdogan, who has become more belligerent toward Greece, that the White House wants Turkey to get the jets and upgrades, an apparent quid pro quo after the Turkish leader dropped opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the defense alliance.
“Turkey is a strong state. There should be no such conditions like ‘I will give you this, but you will not do that.’ We continue our negotiations with logical parameters in the talks between military delegations,” he said.
That ruled out any conditions as set in the Pappas amendment with Erdogan having made it clear he won’t accept restrictions, and that he also wants US-made F-35’s barred over Turkey’s acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece.
“We will continue our work in military, political and diplomatic terms. Our hope is that common sense prevails and reasonable and logical solutions emerge,” said Akar, who has often been bellicose.
But Erdogan isn’t talking to Mitsotakis, whose government renewed a military cooperation deal with the US and has been building an arsenal in case there is a conflict with Turkey as tensions persist.