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The U.S. State Department said it would allow the sale of about $23 billion worth of fighter jets and equipment to Turkey, the final step in a long-delayed deal that has severely strained relations between Ankara and Washington.
The sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets and upgrades to dozens of other fighter jets is tied to Sweden’s entry into NATO, with the United States delaying the transfer of the Lockheed Martin-produced aircraft until Turkish President Recep Tayyip El The Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved Sweden’s membership of NATO. Memberships over the past week.
New members of NATO require unanimous approval from existing members. The fact that several Kurds, critics of the Turkish government, have historically been granted asylum by Swedish authorities has become a stumbling block for the country to join the military alliance, a move that historically neutral Sweden decided to take as soon as possible after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022. Turkey accuses Sweden of allowing Kurds with links to terrorism to live there.
The Swedish government has responded to Turkey’s concerns by tightening domestic anti-terrorism laws and taking other security-related measures. Currently, Hungary is the only NATO member that continues to refuse to approve Sweden’s membership.
The aircraft sales, which became public after the State Department informed Congress of the plan on Friday, will also allow Greece to purchase an additional 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets for $8.6 billion.
Delays in the Turkish sale also involve sometimes bellicose interactions between Ankara and Athens. But tensions there have also eased in recent months thanks to vigorous efforts by U.S. diplomats, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to increase public engagement in the long-standing animosity between the two neighbors.
Congress has not opposed Greece’s purchase of aircraft, but Turkish deals have been slowing since October 2021.
After Turkey’s parliament approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO last week, President Joe Biden urged leaders in Washington to approve the sale “immediately” in a letter.
Some Democrats said they remained concerned about Turkey’s human rights record and its policies toward Russia, Israel and Hamas, and explicitly linked the F-16 sales to Sweden’s bid.
Congress still has two weeks to object to Turkey’s sale after the State Department issues formal notification. Congress is not expected to try to block the sale, despite continuing questions about Turkey’s foreign and domestic policy choices.