Armenian and Hellenic Caucus Leaders Rally Congressional Opposition to Biden‘s Planned F-16 Sale to Turkey

Bipartisan Congressional opposition to President Biden’s recent green-lighting of the controversial sale of U.S. F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits to Turkey is mounting with the Congressional Armenian Caucus and Hellenic Caucus leading the charge, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Hellenic Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) were joined by Greek-American Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Dina Titus (D-NV) this week in calling on their Congressional colleagues to co-sign a letter to President Biden sharing their deep concern about the support he expressed for an F-16 sale to Turkey during the recent NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

The Congressional letter notes, “Turkish and Turkish-backed forces have utilized American-made weaponry and components during these incursions to commit war crimes, including purposefully bombing civilian targets like hospitals and schools in Iraq, Syria, and Nagorno Karabakh. They have also been used repeatedly to violate the sovereign territory of NATO allies and partners like Greece and Cyprus. These are hardly the actions of a committed ally to the United States and Europe.” The letter concludes by stating, “precedent shows that Erdogan will not change his behavior if we continue to reward his efforts to undermine the NATO alliance. The United States must not provide any further support to Turkey’s military until tangible steps are taken to halt his destabilizing actions and violations of international law at home and abroad.”

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian welcomed this most recent Congressional effort to block the F-16 sale. “We join with our Hellenic allies and all our coalition partners in supporting Congressman Pallone’s call on President Biden to block Turkey’s purchase of F-16s – an advanced weapons system that Ankara will surely use to target, intimidate, and attack Greeks, Cypriots, Kurds, and Armenians,” stated Hamparian. “A strong show of support for this bipartisan letter – backed up by a sustained Congressional, coalition, and community drive to impose statutory restrictions on this reckless sale – is needed to avert a foreign policy disaster – the arming of Ankara, an openly anti-American power seeking to displace U.S. leadership across a region vital to global security.”

The ANCA is working with Armenian Americans across the U.S. to secure support for the Pallone letter. Over the past month, ANCA Leo Sarkisian, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan, and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program summer interns and fellows have joined ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan and Hamparian in meetings with over 100 Congressional offices sharing concerns about the pending F-16 sale to Turkey, as part of advancing broader pro-Artsakh / Armenian community priorities.

In addition to Representatives Pallone, Bilirakis, Maloney, Pappas, and Titus, current co-signers of this most recent Congressional letter include Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), and David Valadao (R-CA). Additional co-signers are expected in the upcoming days.

The ANCA is also supporting two amendments – #208 and #478 – to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA – H.R.7900) which would effectively prohibit President Biden from selling or transferring F-16s or F-16 modernization kits to Turkey. Led by Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), current co-sponsors of both measures include Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and Dina Titus (D-NV). The House Rules Committee will determine as early as July 12th whether the amendments are “in order,” allowing a full House vote on the measures.

Earlier in the week, Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Bilirakis, and Pappas issued strong statements opposing the Biden Administration’s apparent plans to sell sensitive F-16 modernization kits to Turkey.

“I am deeply disappointed with the apparent plan to move forward with modernizing Turkey’s F-16s.” said Rep. Maloney “We must not forget that Turkey uses their current air fleet to violate the sovereignty of a reliable NATO member and ally, Greece, and that such a modernized force could be used to support their illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus. Furthermore, Turkey still possesses Russian S-400 anti-air systems, which led to their ejection from the F-35 program and the imposition of CAATSA sanctions We must continue to hold Erdogan accountable for violations of U.S. law, human rights, and the security of our ally Greece – not reward him.”

Rep. Bilirakis concurred, noting, “Turkey has consistently demonstrated a complete disregard for following international law. Erdogan repeatedly acts contrary to American interests, with his dangerous behavior contributing to the instability of the region. For all these reasons, we absolutely must not sell Turkey F-16s or F-16 modernization kits.”

Rep. Pappas shared, “I’m deeply concerned about Assistant Secretary Wallander’s comments in support of modernizing Turkish F-16s and strongly oppose the sale of advanced weapons and equipment to upgrade Turkey’s F-16 fleet. Turkey has failed to address the issues that led to its ejection from the F-35 program and the imposition of CAATSA sanctions. Turkey’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric and behavior towards Greece, a reliable democratic NATO ally, also cannot be ignored. Turkish F-16s have flown over Greek islands and violated its airspace hundreds of times in recent weeks, and Turkey has launched a baseless campaign disputing Greece’s sovereignty over its eastern Aegean islands. We cannot allow the Erdogan government to escape accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance.”

In a joint statement, Representatives Bilirakis and Malliotakis remarked, “As members of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, we remain strongly opposed to any sale of U.S. military equipment to Turkey and will continue to express our concerns to our colleagues on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bond between Greece and the United States has only been strengthened over the last two centuries, and it’s incumbent upon Congress to stand together against aggression whether it comes from an adversary like Russia or a NATO ally like Turkey that continues to violate international law.” The full text of their joint statement is available here.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) led a statement along with Reps. Chris Pappas, Charlie Crist (D-FL), Carolyn Maloney, Frank Pallone, and John Sarbanes outlining Turkey’s ongoing aggression against fellow NATO member, Greece. “Since the beginning of 2022 Turkey has violated the airspace of fellow NATO ally Greece over 2,377 times, including 120 overflights over Greek territory. Turkey’s antagonistic actions in the Aegean Sea, as well as their hostile stance towards the Greek government, make it clear that they do not intend to suspend these aggressive and destabilizing actions soon,” noted Rep. Titus and her colleagues. Their full statement is available here.

In addition to the ANCA, the following U.S. civil society organizations are on the record opposing the sale F-16s to Turkey: American Friends of Kurdistan, American Jewish Committee, Hellenic American Leadership Council, In Defense of Christians, Middle East Forum, and PSEKA – International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus.