In a recent call between US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the leaders discussed several key issues, including Turkey's potential purchase of F-16 fighter jets from the United States and Ankara's objection to Sweden's NATO accession.
Biden said that he congratulated Erdogan on his victory in the presidential election and expressed willingness to work out a deal regarding the F-16s. He also emphasized the importance of resolving the issue with Sweden and stated that they would continue the conversation in the following week. The Turkish presidency's statement on the call was brief, mentioning a commitment to deepening bilateral cooperation in the face of regional and global challenges.
Turkey has been seeking to acquire $20 billion worth of F-16s from the United States, but progress has been hindered by objections from the U.S. Congress. Despite the Biden administration's support for the sale, it has faced delays. Additionally, Turkey has been opposed to Sweden's bid to join NATO, citing concerns about the presence of individuals it considers to be terrorists in Stockholm.
While Turkey ratified Finland's NATO accession in March, it has not yet approved Sweden's bid. Washington aims to see Sweden's inclusion in NATO by the upcoming leaders' summit in July.
President Biden's conversation with Erdogan marked their first interaction since the Turkish leader's re-election. The relationship between the two leaders has been strained, with Biden taking a different approach from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who often praised autocratic leaders like Erdogan. Biden's delayed congratulations to Erdogan follows his predecessor's public support on his social media platform.
Observers speculate that Erdogan's opposition to Sweden's NATO membership may stem from various factors, including dissatisfaction with Sweden's handling of Kurdish diaspora demonstrations and a desire to leverage Sweden's bid to influence the US into selling F-16 aircraft after Turkey's removal from the F-35 program. Erdogan's leadership in Turkey has faced criticism for suppressing independent media, cracking down on political opposition, and strengthening ties with authoritarian and far-right nationalist governments.
As the situation unfolds, Biden and Erdogan plan to continue their discussions to address the issues related to F-16s and Sweden's NATO accession, which carry implications for both their bilateral relationship and NATO as a whole.
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