Turkey’s request to purchase U.S. Predator drones is bogged down in Congress, with some members blocking sales as President Barack Obama pushes for approval, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said.
Fighter jets such as F-35s and F-16s, which Turkey buys and helps to build with the U.S., are a lot more dangerous than the armed drones sought by the military, Gul told reporters in Chicago after meeting with Obama during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.
U.S. resistance to the sale comes as a May 16 Wall Street Journal article reignited debate in Turkey concerning a December bombing which killed 34 smugglers wrongly identified as members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The military was alerted to the group crossing into Turkey from Iraq by U.S. officials after they were seen by a Predator, according to the Journal. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the account “made up.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also working to convince Congress to allow the sale of drones to Turkey, Gul said, according to state-run Anatolia news agency. Turkey, which already operates its own Israeli-made Heron unmanned aircraft for surveillance, also hosts four U.S. Predators.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, has been fighting for autonomy in the southeast since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.