WASHINGTON: In a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the two leaders discussed various issues, including the potential purchase of F-16 fighter jets by Turkey from the United States.
President Biden expressed his willingness to work out a deal on the F-16s, but also emphasised the importance of Turkey dropping its objection to Sweden’s NATO accession.
During the call, President Biden congratulated Erdogan on his victory in the recent presidential election. Biden later spoke to reporters, stating that he had discussed the F-16s with Erdogan and informed him of the United States’ interest in resolving the matter with Sweden. He mentioned that they would continue the conversation in the following week.
The Turkish presidency’s statement on the call was brief, mentioning that the leaders agreed to enhance cooperation on all aspects of their bilateral ties, particularly in the face of regional and global challenges.
Turkey has been seeking to purchase $20 billion worth of F-16s from the United States, but the sale has faced obstacles in the US Congress. Despite the Biden administration expressing support for the deal, it has not progressed swiftly.
Meanwhile, Sweden and Finland, both formerly non-aligned nations, have applied for NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, all NATO member states must approve their bids. Turkey has ratified Finland’s NATO accession but continues to object to Sweden’s due to its alleged harboring of individuals Turkey considers terrorists. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden’s bid.
Washington is prioritizing Sweden’s NATO membership before the upcoming leaders summit in Lithuania in mid-July.
President Biden’s communication with President Erdogan involved congratulating him on his re-election and expressing a plan to discuss Erdogan’s opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership at a later time. Sweden and Finland’s applications to join NATO were prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Erdogan’s objection to Sweden’s bid may be linked to various factors, including tensions with the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden and the desire to secure F-16 fighter jets after Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program.
The relationship between Biden and Erdogan has been strained, with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, taking a more favorable stance toward Erdogan and other autocratic leaders. Nonetheless, Biden offered his belated congratulations to Erdogan, highlighting the complex dynamics in US-Turkish relations.