Ending months of negotiations, the American government gave the green light on Friday, January 26, to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as F-35s to Greece, following ratification by Ankara this week of Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The sale provides for the acquisition by Turkey of forty new F-16s and by Greece of forty F-35s for an amount of eight billion dollars, the State Department announced Friday.

The latter formally notified Congress, as required by American law, of this double sale late Friday afternoon, an American official speaking on condition of anonymity told journalists.

To do this, the United States waited until the instruments of ratification by Turkey of Swedish membership in NATO were physically deposited in Washington, said this official, testifying to the ultra-sensitive nature of the negotiations which prevailed at this time. agreement.

As depositaries of the North Atlantic Treaty, all instruments of ratification must be deposited in the federal capital, which will host a summit in July to mark the seventy-five years of the Atlantic Alliance. American law also requires that Congress be notified of any sale of American arms to a foreign government.

Turkey approves Stockholm’s membership in NATO

The F-16 affair for Turkey, which needs them to modernize its air force, is the story of a long saga which has punctuated discussions between the United States and Turkey in the wake of the Swedish candidacy to the Atlantic Alliance.

The Turkish Parliament approved Stockholm’s accession on Tuesday, putting an end to twenty months of negotiations which tested the patience of Ankara’s Western allies, eager to form a united front against Moscow in the context of the invasion of Ukraine .

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a standoff first demanding a series of reforms from Sweden and then setting a condition for this simultaneous sale of American F-16 planes.

To meet Ankara’s demands, Sweden reformed its Constitution and adopted a new anti-terrorism law, with Turkey accusing Sweden of leniency towards Kurdish militants who had taken refuge on its soil, some of whom were considered terrorists by Ankara.

Sweden announced in May 2022, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, its candidacy for NATO, at the same time as Finland, which became the 31st member of the organization in April.

Opposition from elected representatives of Congress

If the American government has always been favorable to the sale of F-16s to Turkey, elected representatives in Congress – particularly Democrats – were opposed to it and blocked the file, arguing the negative record of human rights in Turkey and tensions with Greece. They had directly linked this contract to Turkish ratification. As a result, the Biden administration held back until Friday from notifying Congress.

The influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Ben Cardin, expressed his agreement for the sale in a press release released Friday evening, emphasizing that he “did not take this decision lightly.” Congress has the power to block it by passing a joint resolution but no one expects it, the condition of ratification of Swedish membership having now been lifted.

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken led an intense diplomatic sequence between Athens and Ankara to obtain this agreement, going so far as to repeat three times to the Turkish president during a trip to Ankara just after the earthquake in February 2023, that There would be no planes without ratification, according to the official.

F-35s for Greece

The agreement first required Athens to commit not to obstruct the sale, and Athens was simultaneously granted more advanced F-35s, according to this source.

Athens had strongly contested the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara due to long-standing territorial disputes with Turkey in the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean region.

This new enlargement of NATO is, however, not completely finished. Hungary remains to ratify Swedish membership despite promises from Budapest that it would not be the last country to give the green light. “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has once again shown that he is the most unreliable member of NATO,” lamented Senator Ben Cardin.

In Washington, they say they expect it to take a few more weeks, but that Hungary is committed to moving forward, which makes it possible to envisage a flag-raising ceremony during a next ministerial meeting. of NATO, at its headquarters in Brussels in April.