Biden supports F-16 sale to Turkey, expresses confidence about congressional approval

(Article re-leads with Biden remarks and changes throughout)

The United States supports the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, adding that he had confidence on the congressional approval needed for the sale to be obtained.

Biden rejected suggestions that Washington’s support for the sale was in return for Turkey lifting its block to the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland earlier this week during a news conference in Madrid at the conclusion of a NATO summit, Reuters reported.

The remarks follow after a meeting between Biden and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Reuters reported. Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. administration gave the green light to the potential sale of the fighter jets. 

“What I said was, I said back in December, as you’ll recall, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well,” the agency cited Biden as saying. “It’s not in our interest not to do that.”

“And there was no quid pro quo with that. It was just that we should sell, but I need congressional approval to be able to do that. And I think we can get that,” the U.S. president said.

In October, Turkey asked the U.S. administration to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16s and around 80 modernisation kits.

In March, the State Department wrote a letter to some members of the U.S. Congress who had opposed the sale, saying "appropriate" U.S. defence trade ties with Turkey would serve U.S. interests.

Before his meeting with Erdoğan, Biden paid tribute to Erdoğan’s efforts to reach an agreement with the Nordic countries. "I want to particularly thank you for what you did," he said.

Turkey, Sweden and Finland ended weeks of diplomatic wrangling and signed a joint memorandum after talks in Madrid on Tuesday to extend full support against threats to each other’s national security. Acknowledging Turkey’s concerns about the fight against terrorism, Sweden and Finland also agreed to lift arms embargoes on Turkey that they introduced for its military operations against Kurdish groups in Syria.

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