Turkey says talks positive with U.S. on acquiring F-16 fighter jets

Turkey is holding positive talks with the United States on its request to acquire F-16 fighter jets and modernisation kits for its existing fleet of aircraft, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.

Negotiations will continue, Akar said at reception at the Defence Ministry in Ankara on Wednesday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

“Both meetings held with U.S. delegations coming to Turkey and the contacts of the delegation going to the United States with members of Congress were held in a positive atmosphere and ground was formed for the continuation of the contacts,” he said.

NATO member Turkey has applied to purchase 40 Blok 70 Viper F-16s and as many as 80 modernisation kits for its existing F-16 fleet after purchasing Russian S-400 air defence missiles. The acquisition of the Russian weapons in 2019 prompted the United States to bar it from a programme to develop and purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

"For NATO to be strong, its members must be strong individually,” Akar said. “The most important element for such strength is the air element. It must also be strengthened. I believe that this will not be ignored by the U.S. administration."

On May 17, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned in a speech to the U.S. Congress that supporting the Biden administration’s proposed military sales to Turkey could cause instability in the region. Erdoğan has since broken off top level talks with neighbouring Greece on improving bilteral relations saying Mitsotakis no longer exists for him.

Turkey is holding meetings with the United States on purchasing the new F-16 aircraft after blocking the applications of Sweden and Finland to join NATO citing their support for Kurdish militants. U.S. President Joe Biden has given his strong backing to the applications and called for a swift resolution to Turkey’s objections.

The Turkish government has grown closer to Russia over the past five years, cooperating on regional issues and trade. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met frequently and hold regular phone conversations. Putin has said the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO does not threaten Russia’s security so long as NATO assets are not moved into the countries.

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