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US senator withdraws objection to F-16 sale to Turkey after Biden administration assurances

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US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat representing the state of Maryland, announced on Friday he will no longer oppose the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, citing assurances from the Biden administration regarding Turkey’s conduct on several geopolitical issues.

The decision comes amid ongoing concerns of allies over Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, its military operations against Syrian Kurds and its involvement in Azerbaijan’s military offensives against the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Van Hollen, a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated on Friday that his concerns were addressed during detailed briefings with administration officials.

These discussions highlighted the administration’s commitment to monitoring Turkey’s adherence to international norms, particularly regarding its interactions with Greece, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria.

The senator’s initial reservations were rooted in Turkey’s aggressive military posture, including airspace incursions affecting Greece and actions perceived as undermining US allies in the region. However, reassurances on the ongoing diplomatic efforts to ease tensions have led to a change in stance.

“I appreciate the Biden Administration’s efforts to engage on these critical issues and provide substantive responses to my concerns,” Van Hollen said. He acknowledged Turkey’s recent ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership as a positive step, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance and dialogue to ensure Turkey’s alignment with NATO principles and regional stability.

The administration has pledged to keep a close eye on Turkey’s military actions, particularly those affecting Armenian security and the Kurdish-led SDF, a pivotal ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This includes direct communication with the SDF to reassure them of the US’s unwavering support amid threats and operational challenges.

Despite his decision not to block the F-16 sale, Van Hollen remains committed to monitoring Turkey’s actions.

“It is clear that we must keep a close watch on Turkey in the weeks and months ahead,” he said, underscoring the importance of actions over words in international relations.

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