Lawmakers propose halting F-35 sale, visas after Turkish embassy fight

Lawmakers propose halting F-35 sale, visas after Turkish embassy fight
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Several lawmakers are looking to withhold military equipment and visas from Turkey in an attempt to force its government to comply with U.S. law after the May attacks on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.

Using the fiscal 2018 defense policy bill as their vehicle, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed amendments to stop F-35 fighter jets and handguns from being sold to the NATO ally country.

Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) proposed blocking the sale of Lockheed Martin-made F-35s to Turkey. The country plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35A variant, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2018.

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Cicilline’s amendment stipulates that no funds for the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) may be used to transfer F-35 aircraft to Turkey until President Trump “certifies that the Government of Turkey is cooperating with the criminal investigation and prosecution of Turkish Government employees involved in the assault on civilians in Washington, D.C,. on May 17, 2017.”

Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.), proposed a similar amendment, disapproving of a still in the works sale of Sig Sauer-made semi-automatic handguns to Turkey for $1.2 million.

And Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), proposed a visa ban on those involved in the attack. Beyer also wants the State Department to conduct an investigation and report on foreign security officials involved in the incident and fixing security lapses.

The amendments were all offered to the fiscal 2018 NDAA, passed by the House Armed Services Committee in June.

The House Rules Committee will vote on the more than 90 proposed amendments Wednesday, deciding which individual amendments will be considered on the floor by the full House.

The United States in June charged bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the May brawl, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers condemned the assaults.

The members of Erdogan’s security detail were reportedly caught on video beating protesters during his visit to Washington.

Turkey's ministry of foreign affairs shot back that the fight “was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures.”

The United States has a sometimes contentious relationship with Turkey. The country is a NATO ally and houses the Incirlik air base, but its leader criticizes the United States for supporting Kurdish groups fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey considers the groups terrorist organizations.

Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the amendment, but the company’s vice president of aeronautics, Orlando Carvalho, told Defense News last month that the firm was aware of emerging congressional concerns about F-35 sales to Turkey.

Speaking at the Paris Air Show, Carvalho said the company will stick to the current program of record until told otherwise and is watching for any changes.

“Members obviously have the freedom to express the concerns that they have, but obviously, that becomes a matter that has to be addressed between Congress and the Department of Defense,” he said. “So while we’re aware of it, we’re not taking any specific action.”

Carvalho added that should the United States change its policy on Turkey, “then clearly we’d have to work with our customer to then determine what actions would have to be taken in response for that.”