Armenia probing US sale of F-16 to Turkey


Armenia’s prime minister wants clarification from the US about the sale of F-16s to Turkey, claiming the advanced jets are bombing civilians amid the ‘existential’ battle with Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey and Azerbaijan strongly denied the claims, but the rebuttals have not prevented Armenia from raising the issue of Ankara’s perceived involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting with its major NATO ally, the United States.

Last Thursday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a telephone conversation with US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, the New York Times reported on Monday. Washington “needs to explain whether it gave those F-16s [to Turkey] to bomb peaceful villages and peaceful populations,” Pashinyan told the Times.

According to the Armenian leader, O’Brien “heard and acknowledged” his grievances and promised to arrange a separate phone call with President Donald Trump. That conversation did not take place, however, as Trump announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 shortly afterward.

Yerevan has long insisted that Turkey’s backing of Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan is not restricted to diplomatic and propaganda support. In recent days, Armenian officials have repeatedly accused Ankara of funneling Syrian mercenaries into Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as deploying US-built F-16 fighter jets to aid Azerbaijani troops on the ground.

The Turkish Air Force, one of the largest within NATO, is in possession of an estimated 245 F-16C/D aircraft assembled locally by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Hostilities broke out again between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27, with both sides blaming each other for firing the first shots. The disputed enclave, populated by ethnic Armenians but internationally recognized as an illegally-occupied territory of Azerbaijan, has seen many military flare-ups over three decades. But the current one poses an “existential threat” because of the Turkish factor, Pashinyan told the Times.