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Turkey hopes US won’t fall for lawmaker ‘game’ on F-16 sales

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Ankara hopes Washington will not fall for a “game” by some US lawmakers against the potential sale of F-16 jets, Turkey’s defense minister said, after the House of Representatives approved a bill creating a new hurdle to any Turkish purchase, Reuters reported.

Turkey has sought to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from the United States. President Joe Biden has said he supports the sale, and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he believes it will go through after talks with Biden.

Last week, the House approved legislation that would bar the sale to Ankara unless the administration certifies that doing so is essential to US national security, while also including a description of concrete steps taken to ensure they are not used for repeated unauthorized overflights of Greece.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday talks on the sale were ongoing and Turkey is closely monitoring the process, adding US officials were aware of the importance of NATO member Turkey as an ally in counter-terrorism and migration.

“While that is the situation, how can you explain this? A lawmaker, a group is coming out and stirring things up through certain manipulations and disinformation,” Akar said. “We expect the Unites States not to fall for this game.”

NATO members Turkey and Greece have been at odds over a host of issues for decades, such as conflicting maritime jurisdiction claims in the Mediterranean and ethnically-split Cyprus. They have accused each other of violating international laws.

Ankara recently halted bilateral talks with Athens due to recent disputes over air space violations and the Aegean islands, and Erdoğan cut dialogue with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for lobbying against the F-16 sale to Turkey during a visit to Washington this year.

Akar dismissed any conditions to the possible sale of the jets.

“There shouldn’t be a conditional issue like ‘I’ll give you this, but you won’t do this’,” he said. “Our wish is for common sense to prevail…”

Many US lawmakers soured on Ankara after its acquisition of Russian S-400 defense systems, triggering US sanctions as well as Turkey’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.

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