Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden have discussed defence and economic priorities during a meeting, the White House said, a day after Ankara backed Sweden joining the NATO military alliance.
“They also discussed regional issues of shared interest, including their enduring support for Ukraine and the importance of preserving stability in the Aegean,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday after their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania.
“I want to thank you for your diplomacy and your courage to take that on. And I want to thank you for your leadership,” Biden told Erdogan for agreeing to send Sweden’s NATO accession protocol to the Turkish Parliament.
Türkiye is “starting a new process” with the United States, Erdogan said. He said the previous meetings with Biden were “warm-up sessions,” adding, “Now we are starting a new process.”
Erdogan stated he believes it is time for consultations at the heads of state level with the US as part of the strategic mechanism.
“I consider this meeting as the first step towards that,” he added.
Erdogan also wished the US president good luck in his 2024 re-election campaign.
“Now, you are getting prepared for the forthcoming elections,” Erdogan told Biden.
“And with the forthcoming elections, I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you the best of luck.” Biden, laughing, responded, “Thank you … I look forward to meeting with you in the next five years.”
Transfer of F-16 jets to Türkiye
The Biden administration will move ahead with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye in consultation with Congress, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier.
A US official told the AFP news agency that the White House is now “actively engaging” with Congress, where there has been significant opposition to allowing the sale.
Türkiye had requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes.
Speaking ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in Lithuania, Sullivan said Biden “had been clear that he supports the transfer.”
“He has placed no caveats on this … He intends to move forward with that transfer,” Sullivan told reporters, without giving details on the timing.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat who has blocked the F-16 sale, said on Monday he was in talks with the Biden administration about his hold and that he could make a decision “in the next week.”
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and members of Congress, including Menendez, in recent weeks.
“And as the national security adviser said today, we will move forward with that sale, which we do understand needs to be approved by key members of Congress,” he told a daily news briefing.