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Biden Administration requests Congress to approve defence sale to Turkey

US President Joe Biden in Ohio on 6 May 2022 [Megan Jelinger/Anadolu Agency]
US President Joe Biden in Ohio on 6 May 2022 [Megan Jelinger/Anadolu Agency]

The United States' government under the Administration of President Joe Biden has reportedly asked Congress to approve the sale of advanced weapons and military equipment to Turkey, after years of marginalising Ankara and its defence interests.

According to the Wall Street Journal, anonymous US officials familiar with the matter revealed that the Biden administration is attempting to gain approval from congressional leaders for major defence sales to Turkey, primarily for the upgrading of the country's fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

The potential deal would provide Turkey with missiles, radar equipment, and key electronic components for the upgrade of its F-16s, and would also include AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and AIM-120 Amraam missiles. The sale would reportedly be worth over $400 million.

Made through an informal notification to key congressional leaders in both houses of Congress last month, the Biden Administration's request would need to legally be announced as a formal notification if the leaders approve of the sale.

The news comes after the past few years of US governments – under both the administrations of former PDonald Trump and currently Biden – marginalising Turkey in the fields of diplomacy and defence by removing it from the joint F-35 fighter jet program in July 2019 after the country purchased Russia's S-400 air defence system.

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Relations between the two severely deteriorated thereafter, with Washington persisting in its support and backing of the Kurdish militias in Syria such as the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), further angering Ankara which views those groups as terrorists.

Apart from the Trump administration sanctioning Turkey, it was also revealed, in 2020, that the US Congress had been secretly blocking major arms deals to the country over the previous two years due to the S-400 issue. To make matters worse, Biden largely ignored Turkey and its efforts to reach out diplomatically, once he took office.

Now, there seems to be a restoration of ties and a reconciliatory attitude adopted by the Biden administration towards Ankara. The primary reason for that shift is the ongoing war in Ukraine sparked by the Russian invasion of the country on 24 February, which made the US and much of the NATO alliance to realise that Turkey – its easternmost and a key member – plays a major role in mediating between Kyiv and Moscow, as well as in providing assistance to Ukraine.

That has led fellow NATO member states to lift their restrictive measures from Turkey, such as the UK and possibly Canada lifting their bans on arms exports to the Turkish government and military. Washington's efforts to pass the weapons deal with Ankara is the latest sign that they view it as a vital ally and a potential guarantor for a peace process in Ukraine.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for the State Department said that, for now, it "doesn't publicly confirm or comment on proposed defence transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress".

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