BY ELLEN MITCHELL, The Hill
The House wants to hold off on U.S. weapons sales to NATO ally Turkey until a report is created to analyze worsening tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The provision in the House version of the annual defense policy bill would require the Pentagon to provide Congress a report “on the impact that increasing strains on the U.S.-Turkey relationship, caused by provocative actions taken by the Turkish government over the past year, will have on all U.S. military and diplomatic activities currently conducted in Turkey.”
The Pentagon would be prohibited from executing “the delivery of a foreign military sale for major defense equipment under Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act to Turkey, until the report is complete,” according to the language, included in a minority summary of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released Friday.
“It will slow down anything going to Turkey,” a senior committee aide told reporters of the provision.
They added that lawmakers are trying to work with the Defense Department to figure out where the countries’ relationship is headed as Washington is poised to hand over more than 100 F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey.
Under the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey has committed to buy 116 of the F-35A variant.
The provision in the House bill is in addition to a separate Senate bill introduced last month, which would block Turkey from receiving F-35 fighters over the imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson.
The committee aid said the House is aware of the Senate bill, but the House NDAA does not specifically target any one purchase.
“It aims at major defense equipment as it relates to the arms export control act,” they said.
A proposal to block the sale of U.S. defense equipment came up in last year’s House bill after an attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in May in Washington.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), sought to prohibit the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in response to the violence carried out by bodyguards for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The amendment did not make it out of the House Rules Committee and was not debated on the floor.
One notable sale to Turkey shelved after the incident — in which bodyguards kicked and punched protesters who had gathered outside the outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence — was a $1.2 million deal for semi-automatic handguns and ammunition to an intermediary in Turkey for use by Erdoğan’s security forces.
The sale was quietly shelved indefinitely.
Concerns are also growing over Washington’s and Turkey’s differences over how to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The U.S. has backed the Kurdish forces in Syria in their fight against ISIS, but Turkey considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists.
In March, the United States said it was “deeply concerned” after Turkey seized Afrin, Syria, from a Kurdish militia.