Congress blocks F-35 fighter shipments to Turkey
Congressional defense lawmakers officially barred deliveries of the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Turkish forces, inserting the ban into the final version of the Pentagon’s budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year, The Washington Times reported.
House and Senate conferees adopted the legislation, which prohibits shipments of the advanced, multi-role jet fighter to Ankara’s forces until the Pentagon delivers “an assessment of a significant change in Turkish participation in the F-35 program, including the potential elimination of such participation,” defense lawmakers wrote.
Defense lawmakers also demanded the immediate release of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, as well as any other “U.S. citizens wrongfully or unlawfully detained in Turkey,” in legislative language included in the defense spending bill, now headed to the White House for President Trump’s signature.
Brunson was charged with espionage and having links to terror groups. According to Turkish prosecutors, Mr. Brunson allegedly worked with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to overthrow Mr. Erdogan in 2016, and also assisted the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
The F-35 has been used as a geopolitical pawn between Washington and Ankara, with congressional lawmakers looking to pressure Turkey over its increased military ties to Russia. Last week, a top U.S. diplomat warned Turkey of the “serious downside” to its proposed deal to buy Russian-made anti-missile weapons, saying sanctions levied by Congress over the deal would only be the beginning if Ankara presses forward.