Türkİye, Politics, Americas

Türkiye expects 'solid steps' from US on F-16 purchase, modernization

National defense minister also says since Jan. 1, a total of 2,084 terrorists — including those in northern parts of Syria and Iraq, near border — have been neutralized

Anadolu staff  | 16.12.2023 - Update : 17.12.2023
Türkiye expects 'solid steps' from US on F-16 purchase, modernization


Türkiye expects “positive and solid steps” from the US for its purchase and modernization of F-16 warplanes, Türkiye’s national defense minister said Saturday.

“Technical meetings with the US have been completed. We expect the process to start with positive and concrete steps as soon as possible,” Yasar Guler told journalists in the Turkish capital of Ankara at a year-end evaluation meeting.

In a protracted process, Türkiye has sought to buy from the US a number of the latest-generation F-16 fighter jets as well as modernization kits for the F-16s it already possesses. Türkiye’s president has suggested that the US take steps on the F-16s as Türkiye takes steps on Sweden's NATO accession bid, perhaps before the end of the year.

Pointing out that the most important issue in the procurement process is sanctions, Güler said: "We always express that allies should understand Türkiye’s global and regional function well and therefore immediately give up such restriction practices. We emphasize that a strong Türkiye and a strong Turkish Armed Forces mean a strong NATO and a strong alliance, and a strong fight against terrorism."

He said that while the process of F-16 procurement and modernization continues, the only aircraft Türkiye is focused on and see as the best alternative is the Eurofighter Typhoon.

He said there are plans to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, 20 in the first phase and 20 later, the highest version.

“UK’s support and approach on this issue is important as it sets an example for other allies. Spain also provides similar support to us. Regarding Germany's objections, it would be the right approach to take options and decisions in line with the common security perspective, based on the spirit of alliance,” he said, adding that one of Türkiye’s priorities is increasing capabilities of the Turkish defense industry.

The realization of national defense industry projects “symbolizes the power of Türkiye,” he said, noting the national combat aircraft KAAN and supersonic advanced trainer and light combat aircraft HURJET, the unmanned combat aircraft KIZILELMA, the stealth bomber ANKA-3 and ATAK-2 helicopter, the world's first UAV ship TCG Anadolu and TCG Istanbul, the IMECE satellite, the new Altay Tank and the Firtina Howitzer.

‘We continue to be an active and constructive member of NATO’

Regarding Turkey's contributions to NATO, Guler said Türkiye has fully fulfilled its duties and responsibilities in NATO.

Stating that the decision-making processes within the alliance were shaped in line with Türkiye’s expectations by participating in the NATO Defense Ministers meetings in June and October, Guler said: "Türkiye is among the top five countries in both force contribution and contribution to NATO missions, operations and headquarters. We continue to contribute at a high level to the Peace Support Operation in Kosovo."

Güler pointed out that the task of NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) Command, the largest NATO mission in the Balkans, which they took over Oct. 10, was successfully fulfilled in a transparent and impartial manner.

"In addition to the KFOR Command, this year, we took on the task of NATO Response Force Maritime Component Command. Our 3rd Corps still serves as the NATO Combat Corps Headquarters," he said.

Stating that the Air Force elements were deployed in Romania on Dec. 1 within the scope of NATO Air Policing Missions and that they will serve in the region for four months, Guler said: "We continue to be an active and constructive member of NATO. We showed this once again with [our approval of] Finland's membership,” adding that Sweden’s NATO accession protocol was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sent to the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the final decision regarding membership will be made by parliament.

Fight against terror

Guler added that since Jan. 1, a total of 2,084 terrorists, including those in northern Syria and Iraq near the Turkish border, have been neutralized. Turkish authorities use "neutralize" to imply terrorists in question surrendered, were killed or captured.

The minister added that 1,110 targets were destroyed and 820 terrorists neutralized through effective and comprehensive air operations against terror targets in the north of Iraq and Syria, some of which also used land fire support vehicles, in the last four months.

Guler said 122 terrorists surrendered during the year “as a result of determined operations.”

“All our operations in Syria and Iraq are carried out in line with our self-defense rights arising from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, respecting the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of our neighbors,” he said, emphasizing that the Turkish military prioritizes protection of innocent civilians and friendly elements.

Adding that Türkiye conducts anti-terror operations by taking all kinds of precautions to prevent damage to historical and cultural assets and the environment, Guler said that “all elements of PKK/KCK, PYD/YPG and DAESH in Syria and Iraq are our legitimate targets from now on, as they have been until today.”
"Terrorism is no longer a matter of discussion in our cities with historical and cultural riches, especially Sirnak and Hakkari,” he said, referring to the eastern Anatolian provinces.

Guler noted the ongoing Claw-Lock anti-terror operations.

"We currently have a little work left in the Claw-Lock region in northern Iraq. The places that terrorists call 'fortresses' are becoming their graves. There are a few more places and we will turn them into their graves," he said.

“A total of 590 terrorists, 410 of whom were members of FETO, have been handed over to law enforcement" since Jan. 1, he said,

He added that since the start of the year, nearly 200,000 people have been prevented from illegally crossing Turkish borders while over 13,000 irregular immigrants and 590 terrorists have been caught.

US-YPG/PKK joint armed exercises

With regards to the US forces’ joint armed exercises with the PKK/YPG terror group, Guler said such an act is “unacceptable for an ally.”

“It is not acceptable for an ally of ours to be in contact with a terrorist organization. After all, we are allies in NATO. We have no reservations about anyone. We openly express what we have to say in NATO and similar meetings, especially with our President,” he said.

“We emphasize in every environment that it is unacceptable. Any activity they do with YPG terrorists is unacceptable. I said before that they are training terrorists to use helicopters. They also conducted exercises with terrorists last week. We follow every development closely.”

- Possibility of an Israeli attack against Türkiye

When asked if there is a possibility that Israel will attack Türkiye, Guler said such an attack is improbable.

"Of course, necessary risk assessments are made at the National Security Council but there is no threat to Türkiye,” he said.

Relations with Greece, Cyprus issue

Stating that Türkiye is going through a historical period in the development of relations with Greece, Guler expressed his belief that an honest and constructive relationship with a solution-oriented approach will benefit both countries.

With regards to the Cyprus issue, he said, "Solving the Cyprus issue as soon as possible in a way that guarantees the legitimate interests and security of the Turkish Cypriot people is one of the most important priorities of our country.”

The solution lies in recognition of “sovereignty and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot people," he added.

Mines in Black Sea

With regards to Türkiye, Romania and Bulgaria’s joint efforts to clear mines floating in the Black Sea as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Guler said the countries want to “detect the mines drifting from both Russian and Ukrainian ports and destroy them before they reach our straits.”

“We are carrying out mine detection activities with our patrol planes and ships. Recently, when a lot of mines started to arrive, we established such a tripartite structure. Our minesweepers will constantly patrol up to the end of Romania's borders,” he added.

Türkiye’s efforts for Libya

Guler also pointed out that the cooperation between Libya and Türkiye has increasingly continued in recent years and said they have provided training to more than 15,000 Libyan personnel and health support to 37,000 people in the civil war-stricken country.

"Our aim is to contribute to the formation of 'One and United Libya', which has achieved its territorial integrity and political unity and lives in peace, tranquility and stability. It should be known that we are making intense efforts in this regard," he said.

Reminding that Turkey was the first country to extend a helping hand to Libya, which called for international aid due to the hurricane disaster, Guler said, "This helping hand we extended has been an important step in the development of our relations with the east of Libya and thus contributing to the ‘One Libya’ efforts. We will continue our support to create an environment of peace, tranquility and trust in Libya from now on." he said.

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