President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said that he has received “positive” feedback from two U.S. senators he met with in New York on their potential support for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye.
Türkiye has been seeking to modernize its air fleet and sought to buy 40 F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits from the U.S. President Joe Biden has said he supports the sale and that he would work to convince lawmakers to deliver the F-16 jets for Türkiye’s air force.
Erdoğan earlier this month said his country may turn to other countries such as Russia if the U.S. fails to follow through on its promise to deliver F-16s after a bill recently approved by American lawmakers created a new hurdle for any purchase by Türkiye.
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.
Ankara has been voicing its firm opposition to any conditions on the sale of the jets.
“They’re speaking positively,” Erdoğan told Reuters on Tuesday at the United Nations before his meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Erdoğan was attending the annual U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) of world leaders.
In recent days in New York, Erdoğan met with U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Chris Coons.
Asked if he would meet Biden, the Turkish leader said he will be attending a reception to be hosted by the president. No formal meeting was set, according to the official schedules of both presidents.
Erdoğan on Monday said relations between Türkiye and the U.S. were not “ideal,” citing the fact that trade and defense industry links were not at the desired level.
“For example, we have the outstanding issue of F-16s. We have procured F-16s from the United States. But, instead, certain political decisions are being made, resulting in the imposition of sanctions upon Türkiye,” he told an interview with broadcaster PBS.
“This is not very becoming of two friendly countries such as the U.S. and Türkiye,” he noted.
“We have spoken to the Republicans, and we have received the support of the Republicans. If we can’t get the results out of the United States about the F-16s, what are we going to do? Of course, we're going to take care of our own selves.”
Erdoğan earlier this month expressed hope that the U.S. will “not lead” Türkiye to “different tracks.” “The U.S. is not the only one selling warplanes in the world. The U.K., France and Russia sell them as well,” he said. “It’s possible to procure them from other places, and others are sending us signals.”
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.