After Russian missiles, Syria and human rights, the F-16 fighter plane, which Ankara would like to acquire, could become the next subject of contention between the United States and Turkey, yet allies within NATO .
After the S-400 fiasco, Turkey's purchase of a Russian anti-missile system that led the United States to announce in 2019 its exclusion from the prestigious F-35 program, Ankara has long hoped that the States - United would change their mind.
But President Joe Biden has not reconsidered the decisions of his predecessor Donald Trump on this matter, because the US military considers the detection system of the Russian S-400 as a threat to the F-35, a fighter plane. State-of-the-art stealth, designed to evade the most sophisticated radars. The Pentagon revealed on Wednesday that the final finalization of the process to exclude Ankara from the F-35 manufacturing program, which granted Turkey the manufacture of 900 pieces of the most expensive aircraft in history, had taken place. September 23.
The two countries are now seeking to "settle the dispute" related to the F-35, said a spokesman for the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth.
In other words, compensating Ankara for the $ 1.4 billion paid for the F-35s Washington never delivered.
A Pentagon delegation held "productive" talks in Ankara on Wednesday, before further negotiations in the coming months, and US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin "recognized the modernization needs of the Turkish military" during of a telephone interview Thursday with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, according to the Pentagon.
The F-16s should also be on the menu for Joe Biden's meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines next week of the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow. According to the Turkish press, Erdogan wants 40 F-16 fighter jets and some 80 modernization kits for this aging aircraft, of which the Turkish army already has more than 200 copies. The US State Department, which negotiates arms sales abroad, implicitly confirmed having received a formal acquisition request from the Turkish government.
"The ministry neither confirms nor comments on plans for arms sales until they have been notified to Congress," said a spokesman for American diplomacy.
But "Turkish officials have publicly stated their interest in buying F-16s," he added.
However, this request is unlikely to be successful quickly in the face of likely opposition from the US Congress.
"We cannot afford to compromise our national security by sending American planes to an ally who continues to behave like an adversary," eleven elected Republicans and Democrats wrote this week in an open letter to President Joe Biden.
"No immediate solution to this impasse"
What is more, Turkey is already hit by American sanctions which, since December, have prohibited any transaction with the Turkish government agency in charge of arms purchases, the SSB. The Trump administration then invoked a 2017 American law known as "countering America's adversaries through sanctions" (Caatsa), which provides for automatic sanctions when a country concludes a "significant transaction" with the sector. of Russian armaments.
This law may also stand in the way of a sale of F-16s, underlines Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Turkish officials say it is possible to transfer planes to Turkey without going through the SSB, but congressional officials have indicated that they would oppose such alternatives because it would circumvent the law," added this expert.
The Turkish president, who has just renounced the expulsion of ten Western ambassadors, including that of the United States, threatened to turn to Russian planes if Washington refused to sell him its aircraft.
For Aykan Erdemir of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, "there is no immediate solution to this impasse," he explains.
"That's why I think Washington and several European capitals are waiting for the 2023 elections (in Turkey), hoping that this solves the problem."
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