The U.S. Senate‘s decision to pass a bill prohibiting the sale of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets to Turkey is unfortunate and against the spirit of strategic partnership, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Senate passed a $716 billion defence policy bill on Monday, backing President Donald Trump’s call for a bigger, stronger military, which includes an amendment prohibiting sales of the jets to Turkey.
Yildirim was also quoted by broadcaster Haberturk as saying that Turkey was not without alternatives and that the bill would not make Turkey vulnerable.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 85-10 for the annual National Defense Authorisation Act, or NDAA, which authorises U.S. military spending but is generally used as a vehicle for a broad range of policy matters.
Before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one already passed by the House of Representatives. That compromise measure must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump.
Considered must-pass legislation, the fiscal 2019 Senate version of the NDAA authorizes $639 billion in base defence spending, for such things as buying weapons, ships and aircraft and paying the troops, with an additional $69 billion to fund ongoing conflicts.
This year, the Senate included an amendment that would kill the Trump administration’s agreement to allow ZTE to resume business with U.S. suppliers, one of the few times the Republican-led Senate has veered from White House policy. That ZTE provision is not included in the House version of the NDAA.
While strongly supported by some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as some Democrats, the measure is opposed by the White House and some of its close Republican allies, who control the House as well as the Senate.
It could face a difficult path to being included in the final NDAA, especially if Trump lobbies the Republican-led Congress against it, as he is expected to do.
Republicans and Democrats have expressed national security concerns about ZTE after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who had conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
The U.S. government placed a ban on ZTE earlier this year, but the Trump administration reached an agreement to lift the ban while it is negotiating broader trade agreements with China and looking to Beijing for support during negotiations to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
Republicans Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Chris Van Hollen, who led the Senate push for the ZTE provision, said in a joint statement after the vote that they were “heartened” by support, adding: “It is vital that our colleagues in the House keep this bipartisan provision in the bill as it heads towards a conference.”
But the final NDAA could include only a much less stringent provision, included in the House bill, that would bar the Defence Department from dealing with any entity using telecommunications equipment or services from ZTE or another Chinese company, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.