US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greeting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday. Photo: AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greeting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday. Photo: AFP

Following a meeting with his US counterpart in Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that his country’s participation in the F-35 program would proceed as scheduled.

The delivery of the US-made stealth fighter jets will be on June 21, as originally planned, despite questions raised by US lawmakers about the deal, Cavusoglu said, as reported by Hurriet Daily News.

He added that “Turkey rejects threatening language from the US on the issue. It is not constructive.” The comment was an apparent reference to Congressional action in the works to prevent the sale of the jets to Turkey, amid concerns about the purchase of Russian air-defense systems and an American citizen held in Turkish prison.

Bills that would block the transfer of F-35s to Turkey have already been passed in the US House of Representatives and in Committee in the Senate. The Senate version would then have to be passed in a full vote, after which it could be reconciled with the House version and signed by the president.

It is unclear whether Cavusoglu’s comments on Monday indicated the Trump administration had given assurances that the president would veto such a bill.

US-Turkey ties: from cold to lukewarm?
Though Turkey and the United States remain NATO allies, the bilateral relationship has faced a number of obstacles, including US support for Kurdish forces in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kurdish groups are seen by Ankara as terrorist organizations.

After Cavusoglu’s meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, the two countries agreed on a “roadmap” to resolve tensions between the two ostensible allies in northern Syria. The plan would see the US facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the city of Manbij.

On Tuesday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia announced it will be pulling its military advisors out of the city.

Reuters reported that under the plan the US and Turkey would “jointly maintain security and stability” in northern Syria.