In a recent phone conversation between President Joe Biden of the United States and President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, several matters were discussed, including Turkey’s potential purchase of F-16 fighter jets from the US.
President Biden expressed his willingness to negotiate a deal on the F-16s but also stressed the importance of Turkey withdrawing its objection to Sweden’s NATO accession.
During the call, President Biden congratulated President Erdogan on his victory in the recent presidential election. Later, Biden informed reporters that he had talked with Erdogan about the F-16s and conveyed the United States’ interest in resolving the issue with Sweden. He mentioned that they would continue their discussions in the coming week.
The Turkish presidency issued a brief statement on the call, noting that the leaders agreed to enhance cooperation in all aspects of their bilateral relations, 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 encountered obstacles in the US Congress. Although the Biden administration has expressed support for the deal, its progress has been slow.
In the meantime, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Sweden and Finland, previously non-aligned nations, have applied for NATO membership. However, approval from all NATO member states is required for their bids. Turkey has ratified Finland’s NATO accession but continues to object to Sweden’s due to allegations of Sweden harboring individuals Turkey considers terrorists. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden’s bid.
Given the upcoming leaders summit in Lithuania in mid-July, the United States is prioritizing Sweden’s NATO membership.
President Biden’s conversation with President Erdogan included congratulations on his re-election and a plan to address 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 influenced by various factors, including tensions with the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden and Turkey’s desire to secure F-16 fighter jets after being removed from the F-35 program.
The relationship between President Biden and President Erdogan has been strained, especially considering the more favorable stance of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, toward Erdogan and other autocratic leaders. Despite this, Biden extended his congratulations to Erdogan, highlighting the complexities in US-Turkish relations.