April 6 (Reuters) - The Biden administration believes a potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would be in line with U.S. national security interests and would also serve NATO's long-term unity, the State Department said in a letter to Congress that fell short of explicitly supporting the deal.
U.S. says potential F-16 sale to Turkey would serve U.S. interests, NATO - letter
"The proposed sale will require a Congressional notification if the Department of State were to approve it," it added.
Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good relations with both and has hosted talks between the two in Istanbul. It has voiced support for Ukraine, but has also opposed far-reaching Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the invasion.
While forging close ties with Russia on energy, defence and trade and relying heavily on Russian tourists, Turkey has sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.
The State Department letter was in response to a Feb. 4 letter led by Democratic congressman Frank Pallone and more than 50 lawmakers from both parties urging the Biden administration to reject Ankara's purchase, citing what they say is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's lack of commitment to NATO and his "vast human rights abuses."
The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey's defense industry following its purchase of the S-400s.
Ankara had previously ordered more than 100 U.S. F-35 jets, but Washington removed Turkey from the program after it bought the S-400s. Turkey has called the move unjust and demanded reimbursement for its $1.4 billion payment. Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) makes the F-35 and the F-16.
In a call on March 10, Erdogan told U.S. President Joe Biden that it was past time to lift all "unjust" sanctions on Turkey's defense industry and that Turkey expected its request to purchase F-16s to be finalised as soon as possible.