UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH AND FINNISH DEFENSE MINISTERS
By Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – In line with the US' recent positive approach, now Türkiye wants to see concrete steps from Washington, said the Turkish defense chief on Thursday, referring to Türkiye's pending purchase of F-16 fighter jets.
At a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart Antti Kaikkonen in the capital Ankara, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said: "Based on these positive approaches, we now expect positive and concrete steps from the US. We want this work and the process to be concluded as soon as possible in a positive and rapid manner."
After the US Congress dropped restrictive language on the F-16 sales from a defense bill, after Türkiye's insistence, Ankara has signaled that it wants the sales approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden as soon as possible.
"We expect all our allies, especially Finland, to support and contribute to Türkiye's fight against terrorism and the modernization efforts of the Turkish Armed Forces," Akar added.
"We have seen the positive approach of our US counterparts from the very beginning on this issue," Akar explained. "We have always seen a positive approach from the US … in meetings between delegations, especially US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin."
Though the Biden administration had supported the sales, some members of Congress close to the Greek lobby had tried to block its approval.
Calling on Türkiye's allies to make "the necessary contribution" to support the Turkish Armed Forces' procurement and modernization efforts, both in the fight against terrorism and in ensuring that Ankara can "fully" fulfill its duties within NATO, he said: "We are working to supply (ourselves) from our other allies, but we are running into some limitations."
He also said: "I would like to remind you once again that these restrictions are also (to be) removed."
- Bilateral relations with Türkiye and Finland
In his official visit to Türkiye, Kaikkonen and Akar first had a tete-a-tete meeting and then the two ministers chaired the meetings between delegations.
Speaking about the details of the meeting, Akar said It was a "productive and constructive" meeting, adding bilateral relations were discussed, in particular the fight against terrorism, and the removal of restrictions on export licenses.
Referring to the Tripartite Memorandum signed by Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden at a NATO Madrid Summit on June 28, Akar said: "We expect the commitments in the memorandum signed in Madrid to be fulfilled."
Finland made statements in support of the memorandum he said, adding, but, we expect "concrete steps. As soon as the commitments are fulfilled, we want Finland to be among us as a NATO ally."
Besides, for his part, Kaikkonen said Finland takes Türkiye's security concerns "very seriously." Finland has always been in active cooperation with Türkiye.
Today's meeting is "important" in terms of addressing the security concerns of both Türkiye and Finland and continuing these talks, he added.
Touching upon the implementation of the June 2022 NATO Madrid Summit decisions, he said we are taking "concrete steps in this regard." We had the opportunity to share them at the meeting.
The issue of arms exports from Finland to Türkiye was also discussed, he said, adding Finland considers each issue separately regarding the export of defense products.
"As it is clearly stated in the Trilateral Memorandum in Madrid, there is no international arms embargo. By taking into consideration that we will all be allied countries within NATO in the future, we will continue this process," he added.
Ankara requested F-16s and modernization kits in October 2021. The $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 jets, as well as modernization kits for 79 warplanes that the Turkish Air Force already has in its inventory.
Türkiye has long called on its NATO allies, as well as alliance hopefuls Sweden and Finland, to lift all arms embargoes on Türkiye, whether declared or not.
Türkiye has been a member of NATO for over 70 years and boasts the alliance's second-largest army.