Senators introduced bipartisan Bill To Stop Transfer of F-35 Fighter Aircraft To Turkey – Secretary Mike Pompeo expressed concerns to Cavusoglu over Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400s
WASHINGTON, DC – (GreekNewsOnline)
Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced a bill on Thursday to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. The bill would also block Turkey’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft. A similar bill is expected to be presented on Friday at the House of Representatives.
The bill sites as reasons for this action, the unlawful imprisonment of U.S. citizens by Turkey as well as the efforts of the Turkish government to buy S-400 missiles from Russia. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase more than 100 aircraft.
The Hellenic American Leadership Congress (HALC) and the Armenian National Committee have launched a joint campaign last month, asking members of Congress to block the sale of F-35s to Turkey.
“Senators Shaheen and Tillis have worked diligently with me and others in Congress to address America’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Turkey,” said Lankford. “I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests. These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”
“Given my steadfast commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance, it is with regret that our relationship with Turkey has reached a point where we must consider severing defense and business ties in order to free American hostages held in Turkey,” said Shaheen. “Turkish President Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful. Erdogan and his government must abide by the rule of law within his own country and abroad, and release Pastor Andrew Brunson and other Americans unlawfully held in Turkey. There must also be an immediate end to the harassment and detainment of locally-employed staff at the U.S. mission. Until that occurs, I’ll continue to join with Senators Lankford and Tillis to call for punitive action, including blocking the transfer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”
“America is not going to forget about Andrew Brunson and the other Americans who are being wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish government,” said Tillis. “Turkey has long been a vital NATO ally and America understands the unique national security threats it faces; however, denying the rights of law-abiding Americans undermines the relationship between our two countries. The Erdogan government should understand that Congress will pursue measures to protect the interests of American citizens, including stopping the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”
On April 19, Lankford and Shaheen announced their decision to pursue targeted sanctions against Turkish officials in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. On April 20, Tillis and Shaheen led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.
A Bill to limit the transfer of F–35 aircraft to Turkey.
1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. LIMITATION ON TRANSFER OF F–35 AIRCRAFT TO TURKEY.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided under subsection (b), no funds may be obligated or expended—
(1) to transfer, facilitate the transfer, or authorize the transfer of, an F–35 aircraft to Turkey;
(2) to transfer intellectual property or technical data necessary for or related to any maintenance or support of the F–35 aircraft.
(b) EXCEPTION.—The President may waive the limitation under subsection (a) upon a written certification to Congress that the Government of Turkey is not—
(1) taking steps to degrade NATO interoperability;
(2) exposing NATO assets to hostile actors;
(3) degrading the general security of NATO member countries;
(4) seeking to import or purchase defense articles from a foreign country with respect to which sanctions are imposed by the United States; or
(5) wrongfully or unlawfully detaining one or more United States citizens.
POMPEO WITH CAVUSOGLU
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday told his Turkish counterpart that the United States was seriously concerned over Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, which are not compatible with NATO’s defenses.
“The secretary underscored the seriousness of US concerns … if they (Turkey) go ahead,” a senior U.S. official said after a meeting between Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers session.
“He asked Cavusoglu to closely consider NATO interoperable systems,” the official added.
Hours after being confirmed as U.S. President Donald Trump’s new secretary of state, Pompeo headed to Brussels to participate in the NATO meetings, which have focused on Russian aggression and ways to strengthen the alliance.
During the meeting Pompeo also raised concerns about the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail since December 2016, and other Americans detained by Turkey.
Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for S-400 missiles, reportedly worth $2.5 billion, in late December as part of Ankara’s plans to boost its defense capabilities amid threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.
Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcasters after the meeting that the S-400 deal was completed but that Turkey would be open to purchasing other defense systems from its allies.
“We have completed the S-400 process. That is a done deal,” he said. “But we need more air defense. We can discuss what we can do for further purchases.”
The system is incompatible with the alliance’s systems, and their purchase by Turkey has unnerved NATO member countries, which are already wary of Moscow’s military presence in the Middle East.
NATO officials have warned Turkey about unspecified consequences of purchasing the S-400, but Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said ties with NATO remain strong.
Cavusoglu said Turkey would not be deterred by possible sanctions.
“The ‘I will impose sanctions if you buy’ approach will not affect Turkey. Turkey will not accept this. If we are going to discuss what we can do together in the future, we are in.”