May 18, 2024

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Biden says he and Erdogan talked about the F-16s, Sweden’s bid for NATO

Biden says he and Erdogan talked about the F-16s, Sweden’s bid for NATO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said in a phone call on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Ankara’s desire to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States, while Biden replied that Washington was keen for Ankara to give up its fighter jets. Objection to Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The exchange took place when Biden called Erdogan to congratulate him on his victory in Sunday’s Turkish presidential election.

“I spoke to Erdogan. I congratulated Erdogan. He still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we want to deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done. And so we’ll get back in touch with someone,” Biden told reporters before leaving the White House for the White House. Delaware”.

“We’ll talk more about that next week,” he added.

Bids for NATO membership must be approved by all NATO members. Turkey and Hungary have not yet accepted Sweden’s offer.

Turkey has sought to buy $20 billion worth of F-16s and nearly 80 upgrade kits from the United States, but the sale has stalled over objections from the US Congress over Ankara’s problematic human rights record and Syria policy, despite the Biden administration. He has said over and over again that he supports the sale.

The US Congress earlier this year approved a much smaller $259 million package, including avionics software upgrades for Turkey’s existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets, days after Turkey ratified Finland’s accession to NATO.

A Turkish Air Force F16 jet lands at a new airport under construction in Istanbul, Turkey on September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The Biden administration has repeatedly rejected any assertion of any “trade-off” between the sale and NATO expansion, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in January that the US side had made it clear that approval of NATO’s bids would be viewed favorably. Congress.

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A bipartisan group of senators said in a February letter to Biden that Turkey’s failure to ratify the accession protocols of Sweden and Finland, which was still pending at the time, would “call into question this pending sale,” referring to F-16s.

A source familiar with the discussions said the United States had previously told Turkey that it would be difficult to persuade Congress to approve the F-16 deal if Ankara did not give the green light to Sweden.

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

Turkey ratified Finland’s accession to NATO in late March, but has continued to object to Sweden, saying Stockholm harbors members of armed groups it considers terrorist. Hungary has not yet accepted Sweden’s offer.

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

In a brief statement regarding the contact between Biden and Erdogan, the Turkish presidency said that the two leaders agreed to deepen cooperation in all aspects of their bilateral relations, which they said had increased in importance in facing regional and global challenges.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Humeyra Pamuk) Editing by Leslie Adler and Chris Reese

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Humera Pamuk

Thomson Reuters

Hamira Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington, DC. She covers the US State Department, and travels regularly with the US Secretary of State. In her 20 years with Reuters, she has had posts in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, covering everything from the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria to several Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the Southeast. In 2017, she won the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship Program at Columbia University School of Journalism. She holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in European Union Studies.

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