Turkey says F-16 jets and Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids ‘not related’

By Anadolu Agency

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Turkey’s request for F-16 fighter jets and Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids are “not related.”

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with his US counterpart Antony Blinken, Cavusoglu said the US Congress should not portray these separate issues as related.

“We say that these two different issues should not be related to each other,” he stressed.

He added that Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids were never raised as a “precondition” in the F-16 sales process.

If the (Biden) administration stands firm, this issue would be resolved,” Cavusoglu said.

Last October, Ankara made a request to Washington for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits, while the State Department last week informally notified Congress of the potential sale.

Calling his meeting with Blinken “fruitful,” Cavusoglu said Türkiye proposed the US to hold “Turkey-US Strategic Mechanism” meetings at least twice yearly.

He said he also invited Blinken to visit Turkey and attend the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in March.​​​​​​​

Asked about the sale of F-35 jets to Greece, the Turkish foreign minister said the US policy of balance between Turkey and Greece has “deteriorated.”

Recalling the decision by the US to lift an arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration, he said: “Greek Cypriots will be able to buy weapons from the US. Against whom will it buy? Against the Turkish Cypriots, against Turkey.”

Cavusoglu met Wednesday in Washington, D.C. with Blinken to discuss bilateral relations, the sale of F-16 fighter jets and regional issues.

The two top diplomats sat down together in the US capital as part of Turkey-US Strategic Mechanism meetings.

The mechanism was launched last April following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome.

Erdogan and Biden agreed to establish a mechanism that promotes high-level dialogue and addresses issues on which Turkey and the US do not fully agree, along with issues they are working on.

A day before Cavusoglu’s meeting, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held consultations within the framework of the mechanism.

Cavusoglu and Blinken last year held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York and NATO summit in Romania, but this is Cavusoglu’s first official visit to Washington.

Turkish-US relations have been strained in recent years due to US support for the YPG/PKK terrorist group in northern Syria and disagreements over Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system in 2017.

In 2019, under then-President Donald Trump, the US removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program over Ankara’s purchase of an S-400. Ankara has repeatedly underlined that the S-400 poses no risk to the F-35s.​​​​​​​

In recent months, top US officials have praised Turkey’s mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine and its role in brokering last summer’s landmark grain deal which allowed millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be transported to many countries, easing the global food crisis. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​