State Dept Says Provision of F-16s to Kiev 'Priority,' to Be Implemented in Coming Months
© Senior Airman Joshua HoskinsAn F-16C Fighting Falcon assigned to the 85th Test Evaluation Squadron shoots an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM over testing ranges near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 19, 2019.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and then provide Kiev with the fourth generation aircraft is a priority for the United States that will be implemented in the coming months, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday.
"I don't have any announcements about when or how that will happen, what countries they'll [F-16s] come from, but it's a priority for us and we will begin to implement that in the coming months," Miller told reporters.
However, the Dutch Foreign Ministry pointed out that the issue of these supplies is very complex and that such decisions should be made jointly.
"We now took a must-on decision in training F-16 pilots together with a large crew [of countries]. And the reason that this is so important is that this is truly something no country, certainly not the Netherlands, can decide on its own, this takes coalitions, this takes taking into account the concerns about all aspects by all [NATO] allies," Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters ahead of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.
Hoekstra added that there were "no taboos" for the Dutch government regarding the supply of conventional weapons to Ukraine.
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren, in turn, noted that the Netherlands is waiting for the US go-ahead to start training Ukrainian pilots in flying F-16 fighter jets.
"We are working on a concrete timeline for starting the trainings and we feel it is important to do that as soon as possible, we did need the greenlight from Washington DC and it is a co-effort with Denmark, Belgium UK and other allies," he said.
The Netherlands will continue discussing with its allies "that might have F16s available about that next step [their possible supply to Ukraine], but that is not on the table right now," Ollongren added.
NATO allies recently pledged to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, the latest addition to the list of lethal weapons the West has provided to Ukraine as it gears up for a large-scale offensive against Russian forces. Yuri Sak, an adviser to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told the American media on Saturday that Kiev hopes to receive the first F-16s from foreign donors in late September or early October.