Biden administration seeks congressional approval for small arms deal with Turkey – Sources | world news

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration has informally approached the U.S. Congress to seek approval for a plan to sell missiles and equipment upgrades to NATO ally Turkey, officials said. sources familiar with the matter on Wednesday.

The weapons package was an existing request from Ankara and includes AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air and sidewinder missiles, as well as hardware and software updates for the F-16 fighter jets, sources said. .

The notification to Congress is part of an informal process that gives lawmakers the ability to quietly question or rescind potential arms sales to avoid publicly angering US allies.

News of the package was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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The package, which one source says is worth around $300m, is separate from the multibillion-dollar upgrade deal Turkey sought from the United States last October, asking to buy 40 jets. Lockheed Martin F-16 and nearly 80 modernization kits. for its existing warplanes.

Asked about the deal, the State Department said it “does not comment on or publicly confirm proposed defense transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

“The United States and Turkey have deep and longstanding bilateral defense ties, and Turkey’s continued interoperability with NATO remains a priority,” a State Department spokesperson added.

Congress’s response to this small deal could provide insight into how it will react to the larger sale of F-16s, which are crucial for Ankara’s air force.

Many U.S. lawmakers had soured on Ankara after its 2019 acquisition of Russian-made missile defense systems, triggering U.S. sanctions as well as Turkey’s withdrawal from the F-35 fighter jet program.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian grip on power and the erosion of the freedoms of journalists, lawyers and rights defenders have also prompted many in Washington to oppose an arms sale to the Turkey.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have provided an opening, many analysts say.

Ankara criticized the invasion and sold drones to kyiv despite Russian objections. But he also opposed Western sanctions on Moscow and maintained cautious rhetoric in refraining from blaming either country for the conflict, even amid reports of war crimes in some parts of Ukraine.

The Biden administration has refrained from publicly expressing an opinion on the proposed F-16 sale, but a March State Department letter to a group of lawmakers argued for “commercial defense ties.” appropriate” with Turkey, without openly supporting it.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Mike Stone; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

Sharon P. Juarez