Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has denounced an American bill seeking to prohibit the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara, stressing that his country has “alternatives” in the face of such a measure.
On Monday, the US Senate voted 85-10 for the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act.
The measure includes an amendment blocking the transfer of F-35 warplanes made by the Lockheed Martin Corp to Turkey unless US President Donald Trump certifies Ankara is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia or detaining US citizens.
The Pentagon is also required to produce a plan to remove Turkey from the F-35 program and limit the transfer of the jets to Turkey.
The US Senate’s decision could ultimately hold up the sale of 100 planes worth close to $10 billion to Turkey.
“The decision is an unfortunate development,” Yildirim said on Tuesday, adding, “Turkey is not without alternatives. Such attempts are regrettable and goes against the soul of strategic partnership.”
The bill must still be approved by the US House of Representatives. It could undergo further changes in the reconciliation process and is not expected to turn into law until later in the summer.
Relations between the NATO allies Turkey and the US have been seriously on the decline in recent months over a host of issues, including Washington’s policy of backing Kurdish militants in Syria and a number of legal cases against Turkish and American nationals being held in the two countries.
Washington is also concerned about Turkey’s intent to install the Russian S-400 air defense system, deemed incompatible with the NATO systems.
A report in late May by the Turkish-language Yeni Safak daily said Turkey would likely opt to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-57 twin-engine warplanes in place of US F-35 single-engine stealth fighter jets if Washington suspends the delivery of the latter in response to Ankara’s purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia.