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US Delayed F-16 Sale Until After Turkish Elections in Hope That Erdogan Will Lose, Scholar Says

CC0 / TSGT KEVIN J. GRUENWALD, USAF / A pair of US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Fighting Falcons,
A pair of US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Fighting Falcons, - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.03.2023
The US has put the brakes on the provision of F-16 fighters to Turkiye after removing the nation from the F-35 program because Washington is waiting for the results of the Turkish presidential elections on May 14, 2023, Dr. Huseyin Bagci, president of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, told Sputnik.
Ankara may reverse its decision to purchase F-16 fighters from the US in the wake of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's notion that the jets cannot be sold to Turkiye without approval from the Congress, Cagri Erhan, a member of the Turkish Presidency’s Security and Foreign Policies Council, told Sputnik on March 6.
Ankara is reportedly considering a set of options including Russian, Chinese and European jet fighters.
"If Turkiye does not get the F-16, of course, Turkiye would look for other alternatives, because Turkiye needs jet fighters. Turkiye will not be able to provide their own jet fighters in the coming years. So Turkiye has to look for other alternatives," Dr. Huseyin Bagci explained.
On January 18, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu signaled that Ankara was hoping to find common ground with Washington over the purchase of F-16s while meeting with Blinken in Washington. Cavusoglu sought to secure a $20 billion deal that included 40 Lockheed Martin Block 70 F-16 fighter jets as well as upgrades to Turkiye’s current F-16 fleet.
However, on February 2, a bipartisan group of US senators said that the US Congress cannot support the deal until Ankara ratifies the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland. Earlier, in 2019, Turkiye was ousted from the joint F-35 stealth fighter jet deal over Ankara's decision to acquire and deploy the Russian-made S-400 air missile defense system.
An F-16C Fighting Falcon assigned to the 85th Test Evaluation Squadron shoots an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM over testing ranges near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 19, 2019. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.03.2023
Ankara Likely to Drop Bid for US F-16s Over Price, Better Options, Turkish Presidency Official Says
"It is not an unwritten sanction, but a direct sanction towards Turkiye," said Bagci. "My information is that the Americans waited for the moment, until the elections. If there is another government and President Erdogan is not president anymore, it will probably continue much faster. It means F-16s will be provided."
The 2023 Turkish general election was due to take place on June 18, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled that the election might be held early on May 14. Earlier, on January 16, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton called on the NATO military alliance to support Turkiye's opposition parties ahead of the general elections, adding that Ankara does not behave as a responsible NATO ally, in an apparent reference to Turkiye's unwillingness to give an unconditional green light to Sweden and Finland's membership in the bloc.
"It is mostly for domestic political consumption at the moment that Turkiye says, okay, we accept Finland, but not Sweden," noted Bagci. "And the NATO secretary general says, no, it is not one by one. It is a common package that both countries will be taken into NATO. The discussions are still going on. But from the Turkish perspective, probably it will continue to argue that Sweden is not fulfilling the conditions. Just 90 days after the elections. Probably, when we have a new government, the NATO problem will be solved automatically."
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