Erdogan sees advantage in U.S. senator Menendez’s troubles -media

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey needs to turn the legal troubles of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a long-time critic of his government, into opportunity for its requested purchase of F-16 U.S. fighter jets, Turkish media said on Tuesday.

“Menendez being out of the picture is an advantage,” Erdogan was quoted as telling reporters aboard a flight, after the powerful U.S. senator was charged with taking bribes from three New Jersey businessmen.

Menendez, a Democrat who stepped down temporarily as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long opposed the potential sale of F-16s to Turkey and criticised Erdogan’s record on human rights.

He had vowed to stay in Congress, denying wrongdoing.

“There is benefit in turning this situation into an opportunity,” Erdogan said. “Not just on the F-16s, but on all other issues Menendez and those with similar mindsets are carrying out obstructive actions against us.”

Erdogan raised Turkey’s pending ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid and said the White House must also fulfil its promise on the F-16s.

“We expect a clear response from the U.S. on that matter now. We hope to get the positive result without more delay,” he said.

NATO member Turkey requested in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and 79 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes. President Joe Biden’s administration supports the $20-billion sale.

The Biden administration is linking F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid, Erdogan also said.

Turkey will ratify Stockholm’s bid if the administration keeps its promise on the F-16 sale, he added.

(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

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