Turkey suspends F-16 purchase from US over Cyprus ban

Turkey suspends F-16 purchase from US over Cyprus ban
Turkey has reportedly suspended negotiations with the US over the purchase of an additional 30 F-16 fighters after Washington set the condition that they not be flown over the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Military sources close to the Turkish Air Force Command (THK) told Today's Zaman that US technology restrictions, including a ban on their usage by Turkey over Cyprus, irked Ankara. "The US condition that fighters should not be used over Cyprus made us mad," said a source at the THK.

The US has not imposed any such restriction on the around 300 F-16s already in Turkey's inventory, said the same sources, adding that the possible adoption of an alleged Armenian genocide bill by the US Congress sometime in April has no direct links with Turkey's suspension of talks over the F-16 purchase.

Turkey and the US have also been in dispute over the price of the F-16s, estimated at around $2.9 billion. The US Congress approved earlier this year the sale of an additional 30 advanced F-16 Block 50 aircraft as well as associated equipment and services under Foreign Military Sale (FMS) credit to Turkey.

US's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), when it notified the US Congress in late September last year of the Turkish decision to buy additional F-16s, said, "This proposed sale will not adversely affect either the military balance in the region or US efforts to encourage a negotiated settlement of the Cyprus questions." The island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish north and Greek south since 1974.

According to well-informed military sources, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been attaching great importance on the attitude of the US over Turkey's outlawed terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), reported to have been preparing for attacks inside Turkey in their bases in neighboring northern Iraq.“Rather than Armenian genocide bill, the PKK issue has the potential to turn upside down Turkish-US strategic relations on the part of Ankara. If the US does not take action against the PKK in northern Iraq or allow the Turkish military to stage a cross-border operation, the THK may even consider to abandon the idea of buying around 100 JSF fighters from the US,” stated one air force source.

During the American-Turkish Council (ATC) meeting due to start in Washington early next week, both the PKK and the Armenian genocide bill are expected to top the agenda, in addition to the F-16 and JSF purchases.

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