US House of Representatives approves transfer of missile frigates to Turkey
In this image provided by the US Navy the guided missile frigate USS Halyburton enters the naval station Mayport Florida in April 2005. (Photo: AP)
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill seeking permission to give guided missile frigates to Turkey, Thailand and Mexico.
The bill was submitted to and passed by the House of Representatives on Monday. It authorizes President Barack Obama to grant the US military permission to provide guided missile frigates to these three countries.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced the bill to the House on Dec. 11, 2012.
The motion requires Senate approval before it will come into effect. If Obama acts on the motion, Turkey will be given two guided missile frigates, the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) and the USS Thach (FFG-43).
During her speech to the House of Representatives, Ros-Lehtinen underlined NATO member Turkey's critical role with regards to the Syrian conflict and its joint efforts with the US in fighting pirates in Somalia and Aden. She said to grant the frigates to Turkey is a must.
The bill, however, has elicited a harsh reaction from the Washington-based Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), which lobbied to prevent the provision of the naval vessels to Turkey.
The council stated that the bill is another example of the US giving preferential treatment to Turkey in defense deals, adding that the bill should not pass and the US should stop this preferential treatment.
Turkey seeks Sidewinder air-to-air missiles from US
Turkey has also asked to purchase 117 air-to-air missiles and the associated equipment from the US to strengthen its air defense capabilities.
A statement released by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Dec. 24 said the agency notified Congress recently of a possible sale to Turkey of Sidewinder missiles and the associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support at an estimated cost of $140 million.
Turkey requested the sale of 117 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II All-Up-Round Missiles, six AIM-9X-2 Block II Tactical Guidance Units, six dummy air training missiles, 130 LAU-129 Guided Missile Launchers, containers, missile support and testing equipment, provisions, spare parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data and other logistical support.
The statement reiterated that Turkey is a partner of the US in ensuring peace and stability in the region and that it is vital to US national interests to assist its NATO ally in developing and maintaining strong and ready self-defense capabilities that will contribute to an acceptable military balance in the area.
The agency assured Congress that the proposed sale of these weapons to Turkey will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
According to US law, the administration needs to notify Congress of the sale of arms to other countries and seek authorization. If the proposed sale is to a NATO member country, Congress has 15 days to reject the sale or it will be automatically authorized.
Turkey had earlier sought to buy armed drones from the US to be used in its fight against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists, but the request was controversial and some in Congress rejected the sale of the aircraft to Turkey, possibly due to Ankara's deteriorating relations with Israel, a close US ally.