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Aviation

Turkish defense delegation to visit US for F-16 jet talks

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A Turkish delegation will visit Washington DC next week to follow up on US President Joe Biden's pledge to deliver F-16 fighter jets for Turkey's ageing air force, Ankara said Tuesday.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the team would arrive in Washington on Monday on the invitation of unnamed US officials.

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But he stressed that Ankara remained firmly opposed to conditions on the sale imposed by leading members of Congress who worry about Turkey's tense relations with Greece.

“We cannot accept these conditions. Our wish is that the Senate removes them,” Akar said in televised remarks.

NATO member Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program over its acquisition of an advanced Russian missile defense system in 2019.

Biden's election was followed by a year-long chill in relations between Washington and Ankara linked to Turkey's human rights record and strident foreign policy.

But the Biden administration has been more supportive of Turkey since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Biden said he wanted Congress to approve the F-16 sale after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a June NATO summit in Madrid.

“Biden's approach was very positive in Madrid.”

Some leading US senators have said they will only approve the sale if Turkey ends its territorial dispute with historic rival Greece.

Turkey is due to send its newest drilling ship into disputed east Mediterranean waters in search for natural gas later Tuesday.

The last such mission near the divided island of Cyprus in 2020 sparked an international crisis that saw Turkish and Greek warships collide while shadowing each other in the open sea.

A full-out war was averted through swift intervention from NATO leaders and EU power broker Germany.

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