U.S. senators move to block F-35 jet sales to Turkey

An F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter on Nov. 3, 2014. The Navy included eight of the aircraft and 12 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in its FY 2016 Unfunded Priorities List to Congress. US Navy Photo

April 27 (UPI) — A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday moved to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in response to the detainment of an American pastor charged for terrorism in the country.

Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., introduced the bill, which also seeks to revoke the Turkish government from having its country be a maintenance depot for the fighter jet.

Turkey is one of the countries included in the United States’ Joint Strike Fighter program, which aims to sell fighter jets around the world. Turkey plans to buy 116 F-35s, The Hill reported.

American pastor Andrew Brunson, who the Turkish government said aided a militant separatist group during a unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016, has put a wedge between the United States and the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“This technology is too risky in Erdogan’s hands,” Lankford tweeted Thursday.

Lankford also accused Turkey of using terrorism charges to take Brunson “hostage.”

“The Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations,” Lankford said. “The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”