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Politics

Turkish-American State Dept. Official Signed Letter to Congress for Turkey F-16 Sale

WASHINGTON, DC – An article published in Reuters on April 7 by Turkish journalist Humeyra Pamuk cited a March 17 letter to Congress signed by Turkish-American U.S. State Department official Naz Durakoglu that said “the Biden administration believes a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be in line with U.S. national security interests and would also serve NATO’s long-term unity.”

The State Department letter “fell short of explicitly supporting the deal,” Reuters reported.

The letter was mentioned in the editorial ‘A Step before Biden Sells Us Out’ by Antonis H. Diamataris, published in The National Herald on April 12. TNH readers responded strongly to the editorial and to the news of the letter to Congress, especially after learning that the State Department official who signed the letter is of Turkish descent.

“The sale of U.S. weapons to NATO ally Turkey became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made defense missile systems, triggering U.S. sanctions as well as Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program,” Reuters reported, adding that “the State Department letter, first reported by Reuters, is dated March 17 and signed by the agency’s top legislative official Naz Durakoglu,” and “she acknowledges the strained relations while at the same time describing Turkey’s support for and defense ties with Ukraine as ‘an important deterrent to malign influence in the region.’”

“While the letter doesn’t provide any assurance or a timeline for the sale, it emphasizes that Washington’s punitive actions after Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 systems represent ‘a significant price paid,’” Reuters reported.

“The Administration believes that there are nonetheless compelling long-term NATO alliance unity and capability interests, as well as U.S. national security, economic and commercial interests that are supported by appropriate U.S. defense trade ties with Turkey,” the letter said, adding that “the proposed sale will require a Congressional notification if the Department of State were to approve it,” Reuters reported.

“The State Department letter was in response to a Feb. 4 letter led by Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone and more than 50 lawmakers from both parties urging the Biden administration to reject Ankara’s purchase, citing what they say is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s lack of commitment to NATO and his ‘vast human rights abuses,’” Reuters reported, noting that the U.S. “imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry following its purchase of the S-400s.”

“Ankara had previously ordered more than 100 U.S. F-35 jets, but Washington removed Turkey from the program after it bought the S-400s,” Reuters reported, adding that “Turkey has called the move unjust and demanded reimbursement for its $1.4 billion payment.”

“In a call on March 10, Erdogan told U.S. President Joe Biden that it was past time to lift all ‘unjust’ sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry and that Turkey expected its request to purchase F-16s to be finalized as soon as possible,” Reuters reported.

It should also be noted that on November 1 Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), alongside Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) and Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), led 41 of his House colleagues in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken opposing U.S. plans to sell Turkey F-16s and demanding information from the State Department following recent reports of a request from Turkey to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and dozens of modernization kits for its existing warplanes from the United States.

In that letter the lawmakers wrote: “In October, it was reported that Turkey requested to purchase ‘40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.’ On October 17, Turkish President Erdogan told reporters that the United States ‘has proposed the sale of a batch of F-16 fighter jets’ but the reported sale has yet to be confirmed. We have noted that your Department has declined to answer questions about the LOR [letter of request], citing policy of not commenting before Congress has been notified of the LOR. We believe that the widespread reporting on Turkey’s request, as well as President Erdogan’s own statements, provide us sufficient basis to declare our opposition to this potential sale.”

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