By Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Monday did not confirm Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s comment that Washington had made an offer to Ankara for the sale of F-16 fighter jets but added that it has not made Turkey a financing offer for the warplanes.
Erdogan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 program, from which Ankara was removed after buying missile defense systems from Russia. “We would refer you to the Turkish government to speak to its defense procurement plans. What I can say is the United States has not made any financing offers on Turkey’s F-16 request,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Turkey made a request to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. Previously Ankara had also ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, but the United States removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defence systems.
Erdogan said Washington had made the F-16 proposal in return for Turkey’s payment of $1.4 billion that it made for the F-35 joint fighter program. Asked if it was possible for that money to be used toward the purchase of F-16s, Price said: “The Department of Defense continues to be engaged in a dispute resolution mechanism with Turkey on the F-35 but I’m not going to prejudge the outcome.”
The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over disagreements on Syria policy, Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. charges against a state-owned Turkish bank and erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey. Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has also triggered U.S. sanctions. In December 2020, Washington blacklisted Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees.