A bipartisan group of senators urged President Joe Biden to delay the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey until Turkey agrees to allow Sweden and Finland to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The letter comes at a time when Sweden and Finland are waiting for Turkey to approve their admission to NATO, of which Turkey is a member. Congressional sources previously told CNN that the Biden administration was preparing to ask lawmakers to approve the sale of F-16s to Turkey, which would be among the largest arms sales in years.
The group of 27 senators wrote in their letter on Thursday, however, that Congress “cannot consider future support for [Turkey],” including the sale of the F-16 jets, until Turkey “completes ratification of the accession protocols.”
“Failure to ratify the protocols or present a timeline for ratification threatens the Alliance’s unity at a key moment in history, as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the letter says. “A productive and mutually beneficial bilateral security relationship with [Turkey] is in the interest of the United States, and we are awaiting the government’s ratification of the NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland.”
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO last spring, just months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the time that he would reject the effort, accusing the two countries of being “like guesthouses for terror organizations.”
Those tensions have continued. Just last week, Turkey called for a meeting between the three countries to be postponed after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Swedish government was complicit in the burning of the Quran during a protest in Stockholm. A Turkish state news agency reported that the meeting was canceled due to an “unhealthy political environment.”
On Thursday, the lawmakers commended Turkey for being a “valuable NATO ally as Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues,” but said its continued blocking of Sweden and Finland joining NATO is working against it.
The US-Turkey relationship “has been shadowed by continued delays in ratification for NATO enlargement,” the letter says, “and those delays pose a risk to the security of the alliance, to Europe and to the international world order that Vladimir Putin continues to threaten.”