ATHENS – After Congress said that Turkey should stop violating Greek airspace, the Senate removed a provision in an annual defense bill by New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas that would have tried to prevent Turkey from getting more F-16’s.
His amendment could have been overriden by President Joe Biden – who wants Turkey to get more of the fighter jets that could be used against Greece and to upgrade Turkey’s Air Force.
The Democrats control the Senate but the attempt to limit the sale of the fighter jets to Turkey was excised from a final text of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) said Middle East Eye.
Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA focused on Congress urging Turkey not to keep sending fighter jets in Greece’s airspace but there’s no way to bar Turkey from using new F-16’s to continue doing so as Pappas wanted.
Biden, who had been considered a friend of Greece, has leaned toward Turkey and backing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s demands to get the fighters although Greece and the US renewed a military cooperation deal.
Turkey made a request in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits from the US for its existing warplanes but pro-Greece elements in the Congress opposed it, citing Turkish provocations.
The compromise version of the NDAA said, however that, “We believe that North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies should not conduct unauthorized territorial overflights of another NATO ally’s airspace.”
Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has been at the forefront against Turkey said that, “the NDAA is not a win for Turkey. This is just one of many tools we have at our disposal in the Senate to deal with arms sales.”
He is head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but the removal of the Pappas Amendment showed a sign that the Senate is willing to go along with Biden’s hopes to give Turkey more weapons, which has to face a final vote.
Menendez, a vocal opponent of Turkey, and who has oversight of US arms sales, said that he has not changed his opposition to the F-16 deal. “I’ll say it again. As SFRC Chairman, I will NOT approve F-16s for Turkey until Erdogan halts his abuses across the region,” he stated.
The vote came at the same time Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned – as did Erdogan earlier – that Turkey would invade Greece unless Greek troops were taken off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast.
Greece said it has to keep troops on the islands that otherwise could be open to an easy takeover if Turkey, which has a far superior number of forces on its coast near them, then moves to invade.
In a letter to Congress in June, the Department of Defence said that the US “fully supports” Turkey’s efforts to modernize its air force, seeing the move as “a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security.”
There was no mention that Turkey had been barred from getting US-made F-35s after buying Russian made S-400 missile defense systems that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
But at a NATO conference in Madrid in July, Biden repeated his support for Turkey over Greece’s objections, saying that, “We (the US) should sell (Turkey) the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well. It’s not in our interest not to do that.”