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US set conditions for Turkey, Greece’s use of fighter jets: report

An acrobatic plane pilot performs with General Dynamics F-16 Solo Turk aerial aerobatic aircraft during the 5th Sivrihisar Airshow in Sivrihisar district of Eskisehir, in Turkey, on September 13, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP

The United States, which recently approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and F-35s to Greece, stipulated that both countries use the jets for legitimate military purposes or face suspension or cancelation of part or all of the equipment delivery, according to a report in the Greek Kathimerini newspaper.

Using US military articles provided to NATO allies for “non-legitimate military purposes” could trigger the suspension or cancellation of all or part of the delivery of the equipment, according to the final draft of a letter of assurance written by the US Department of State, at the request of the US Congress in the context of negotiations during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July 2023, the newspaper reported.

The US government on January 26 approved a $23 billion deal to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara ratified Sweden’s NATO membership.

The sale to Turkey includes 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and equipment to modernize 79 of its existing F-16 fleet.

The US government at the same time approved the sale of 40 F-35 fighter jets to Greece for $8.6 billion.

Kathimerini reported that the final draft, seen by its reporter, explicitly states that US defense articles provided to NATO allies must be used for legitimate military purposes and clearly must not be used to conduct military activities against other NATO allies.

In the letter the Department of State provides assurances to Congress that if a NATO ally were “to conduct repeated incursions against the internationally recognized borders of another NATO ally, the United States would seek to diplomatically resolve the situation. If the situation could not be resolved via normal diplomatic channels the United States will draw upon additional political and economic tools to resolve the situation including, if necessary, by implementing provisions in relevant defense transfer agreements with the country involved to suspend or cancel all or part of the delivery of relevant defense items consistent with the relevant provisions of those agreements.”

The State Department not only mentions “repeated incursions” but, specifically, warns against any provocative activity by either Turkey or Greece against other NATO allies, adding that the US will use all instruments at its disposal to ensure the legitimate use of the equipment provided.

In case of non-legitimate use, the letter says the Department of State will inform the congressional committees involved about actions it may take. It further states that it will examine the full range of options at its disposal, including partial or total suspension or cancellation of delivery. “If we see this equipment being used in a contrary manner, we will strongly consider the full range of options available to us, including suspension or cancellation of such a case as appropriate, and will consult directly with you in advance regarding any actions we may undertake.”

Referring specifically to Greece and Turkey, the Department of State says it will consider including additional provisions in future sales aimed at “safeguarding against such activities or mistaken impressions by Turkey or Greece, that such activities are not prohibited. These measures would be implemented in a prudent method, taking into account the full scope of the United States regional policies and global defense trade posture and financial liabilities.”

The sale of F-16s to Turkey came shortly after Turkey approved the NATO membership of Sweden after months-long negotiations.

Athens, meanwhile, strongly opposed the sale due to unresolved territorial disputes with Turkey in the energy-rich Mediterranean region.

The US agreement with Turkey hinged first on Athens not obstructing the sale, and Greece was simultaneously granted more advanced F-35s.

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