Joint committee proposal within U.S. Congress managed to halt sale of F-35 jets to Turkey until November 2019

The Committee of Foreign Relations of the U.S. Congress decided to delimit the eventual transfer of state-of-art F-35 fighter jets to Turkey until 1st November 2019. The committee convened last week and under the initiative of Oklahoma Senator James Langford discussed the current stage of deliberations in the acquisition process of F-35 jets by Turkey.

The discussion on F-35 jets coincided with another committee deliberating on the 2019 Federal Budget draft. The outcome of the joint committees’ report stressed that the sale of F-35 aircrafts to Turkey is postponed until 1st November 2019. Until then, the Secretaries of Defense and State must prepare an action plan and appear before the Congress delineating possible countermeasures, including financial sanctions, in case Turkey finally acquires the S-400 missile defence system by Russia. The joint committee’s proposal still needs to be endorsed by the two legislative institutions of U.S., the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This development comes some weeks after Turkey formally declined to opt out for the Patriot missile defence system. Since mid-December 2018, the U.S. Department of State prepared the a proposal bid to Turkey for the sale of two Patriot air defence systems at $3.5 billion. The proposal was made as an official offer on 3 January 2019, but Ankara almost immediately rejected it on two grounds: the U.S. offer did not provide flexibility on financing schemes and did not envisage the potential for co-production of future Patriot models.

The joint committee proposal is a positive development to Greece, Cyprus, and other neighbouring countries fears over enhanced Turkish aggression upon acquisition of F-35 jets. The Greek Diaspora in the U.S. also contribute to the cause, with extensive lobbying undertaken from the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) to persuade U.S. Senators and House Representatives against the eventual sale of F-35 aircrafts to Turkey. Similar efforts were also undertaken by the Armenian Diaspora as well, which also opposes to the greater strengthening of Turkey’s military arsenal.

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