F-16 Fighter Jet

Turkey, Greece Agree on Confidence-Building Measures as Ankara Eyes F-16s

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By Ezgi Akin

ANKARA (Al Monitor) — Turkey and Greece on November 13 provisionally agreed to implement a series of confidence-building measures, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The two NATO allies agreed “to implement or reactivate” a number of confidence-building measures during the course of 2024, the Turkish Defense Ministry stated.

The two countries also agreed to set up a direct line between Ankara and Athens in a bid to “remain in contact and facilitate the implementation” of the measures, the statement said.

The ministry didn’t elaborate on the nature of the new measures to be implemented, but some of the previously agreed-upon 29 measures include decreasing the number of military exercises, joint military drills, training and exchange programs between military academies, as well as other steps to avoid escalation between the two countries’ militaries.

The announcement came after a new round of confidence-building talks between Turkish and Greek defense ministries in Ankara on Monday, November 13. The meetings were attended by high ranking military officials as well as diplomats and other officials, as part of an agreement reached between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in September.

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The meeting took place as part of a positive agenda set out between the two capitals in a bid to set aside their fundamental disagreements over territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The reset follows the de-escalation of tensions between the two countries after disaster diplomacy in the wake of devastating twin earthquakes in Turkey last February.

The reset comes as Ankara seeks to overcome congressional objections to purchase new F-16 fighter jets from the United States. Escalation between the two Aegean neighbors over the past years have led to further strains in Turkey’s ties with the European Union and the United States.

Turkey had requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion of F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits. High-ranking members of Congress have objected to this sale, but could soften their position if Ankara ratifies Sweden’s bid, improves relations with Greece and maintains distance from Russia.

Some lawmakers linked their approval of a pending Turkish bid to buy new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from the United States to Ankara’s repairing ties with its Aegean neighbor along with a series of other issues — including Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession.

The Biden administration greenlighted the Turkish bid that Ankara tabled after Turkey’s exclusion from the program of the new generation F-35 program over its purchase of an S-400 missile defense system from Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions in 2019.

Despite the Ankara-Athens reset, Congress has yet to greenlight Turkey’s request to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and 80 modernization kits to maintain its air force capacity.

Erdogan last month submitted Sweden’s NATO accession protocols to the Turkish parliament where his ruling alliance holds the majority. Yet the Foreign Relations Committee has yet to take up the protocol, with committee head Fuat Oktay saying they were “in no rush” to discuss the protocol.

Furthermore, Erdogan’s description of Hamas as a “liberation” organization in late October as he lashed out at Israel in the face of a growing humanitarian toll in Gaza will likely hamper the efforts to convince US lawmakers to greenlight the sale.

 

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