Two provisions that were set to restrict the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye in the U.S. Senate version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill have been removed, sources said Tuesday.
The U.S. Senate removed the conditions during a 2023 defense budget meeting on Tuesday.
After the completion of the NDAA bill, it is expected to be merged with the House of Representatives version, which will then be submitted to President Joe Biden for approval.
A Turkish delegation led by Efkan Ala, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy chair in charge of foreign affairs, paid a visit to Washington recently for talks with U.S. officials on F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits sales to Türkiye.
Some figures in Congress, such as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who serves as chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have been trying to stop the sales.
Turkish officials previously said Ankara may turn to other countries such as Russia if the United States fails to follow through on its promise to deliver F-16 fighter jets.
A bill recently approved by American lawmakers created a new hurdle for any purchase by Türkiye, which has been voicing its firm opposition to any conditions on the sale of the Lockheed Martin-made F-16s.
The House of Representatives in July approved legislation that would bar the sale to Ankara unless the Biden administration certifies that doing so is essential to U.S. national security. It also includes a description of concrete steps taken to ensure they are not used for “unauthorized overflights” of Greece.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Türkiye’s air force.
Türkiye, in October last year, made a request to buy 40 F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits to upgrade its aging fleet in what is estimated to be a $6 billion deal.
The process to finalize the NDAA is lengthy, and the Senate will also have to back similar language before it can be sent to Biden’s desk to be signed into law. Revisions to the bill in its current form are all but certain. However, the president can veto such legislation.
The sale of U.S. weapons to Türkiye became contentious after Ankara acquired Russian-made S-400 defense missile systems. The deal triggered U.S. sanctions as well as Türkiye’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.