Biden congratulates Erdogan, talks F-16s and Sweden’s NATO bid

The US president says he expects more discussions next week after a call to his Turkish counterpart, congratulating him on re-election.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 29, 2022 [Yves Herman/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden has congratulated his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on his re-election as the two leaders also discussed issues like Turkey buying F-16 fighter jets and Sweden joining NATO.

In Monday’s phone exchange, Erdogan repeated Ankara’s desire to buy the US-made aircraft, while Biden told him Washington wanted Ankara to drop its objection to Sweden becoming a member of the transatlantic military alliance, according to the president of the United States.

“I spoke to Erdogan. I congratulated Erdogan. He still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done. And so we’ll be back in touch with one another,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

Asked if he expected any movement from Erdogan on Sweden’s NATO membership, Biden said: “I raised that issue with him. We’re going to talk more about it next week.”

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, abandoning long-held policies of military non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bids for membership must be approved by all NATO members. Finland joined the US-led alliance last month, but Sweden’s membership has been held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary. Turkey says Stockholm harbours members of armed groups it considers to be “terrorists”.

Meanwhile, Turkey has sought to buy $20bn worth of F-16s and nearly 80 modernisation kits from the US.

But the sale has been stalled due to objections from US Congress over Ankara’s refusal to green light to NATO enlargement, its human rights record and Syria policy – even though the Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale.

A much smaller $259m package including avionics software upgrades for Turkey’s current fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft was cleared by US Congress earlier this year, days after Turkey ratified Finland’s NATO accession.

The Biden administration has repeatedly rejected any assertion of any “quid pro quo” between the sale and the NATO enlargement, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in January said the US side made it clear that approval of NATO bids would be viewed positively by Congress.

Seeing Sweden join NATO by mid-July when the alliance is due to hold a leaders’ summit in Lithuania is believed to be among the top priorities for Washington.

Erdogan on Sunday won a run-off against main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, extending his 20-year rule into a presidential third term.

FILE - In this Thursday, April 10, 2014 file photo, a U.S-made F16 fighter jet takes off from an air base in Campia Turzii, Romania. The Slovak government on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 has approved a Defense Ministry plan to purchase 14 F-16 military jets from the United States. The fighter jets are meant to replace the obsolete Soviet-made MiG-29 jets that the Slovak air forces have used. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file)
A US-made F-16 fighter jet takes off from an airbase in Campia Turzii, Romania [File: Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies