Turkey has threatened to “respond accordingly” and retaliate if Congress goes ahead with its intention to pass a defense bill that prevents the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara.
The prohibition was included in the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Defense News reported this week.
The $716 billion bill, which outlines the annual budget and expenditures of the Defense Department, includes the stipulation that the Pentagon propose a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participating in the F-35 program entirely.
The language was included following Turkey’s intention of purchasing S-400 long-range air and anti-missile defense systems from Russia, and their imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson since 2016.
“I truly wish we could instead be working to pass an NDAA that would strengthen the relationship between Turkey and the United States,” Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said. “However, the Turkish government’s recent actions, including the wrongful treatment of Pastor Brunson, has made this Congressional response both necessary and appropriate.”
In response to the included provisions in the NDAA, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said that his country would “respond accordingly.”
“According to agreement, everybody has a mission and we expect everyone to fulfill these missions,” Aksoy said. “Such steps […] breach of the spirit of our alliance with the U.S. As our minister stated, if such steps are taken, we will have no other choice but to respond accordingly.”
Aksoy’s comments echo a similar sentiment from Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu who earlier this month said that Turkey would retaliate after the House version of the NDAA was unveiled.
“If the United States imposes sanctions on us or takes such a step, Turkey will absolutely retaliate. What needs to be done is the U.S. needs to let go of this,” he said.
The NDAA is still months away from becoming law, with the Senate still needing to pass its version of the bill before the two versions are reconciled over the summer and ultimately voted on once again.