Biden calls up Erdogan to congratulate, later says they talked about F-16s, NATO as well

US President Joe Biden and Turkey’s fresh-from-election-victory President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with each other on a phone call on Monday (May 29). The US president said later on that Erdogan repeated Turkey’s desire to buy F-16 fighter jets from the US. Biden conveyed Erdogan that the US was keen for Turkey to drop its objection to Sweden joining NATO. Biden had called Erdogan to congratulate him on his election victory.

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

“We’re going to talk more about it next week,” he added.

Watch | Erdogan and the policies that helped him win Turkey presidential runoff


If a country is to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), all existing members must approve the bid. Turkey and Hungary are yet to approve Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.

Turkey has sought to buy $20 billion worth of F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits from the United States, but the sale has been stalled due to objections from the US Congress over Ankara’s problematic human rights record and Syria policy, even though the Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale.

Earlier this year, when Turkey ratified Finland’s NATO accession, the US Congress approved a much smaller USD 259 million package for Turkey within days. The package included avionics software upgrades for Turkey’s current fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft.

Quid pro quo?

The US government has repeatedly rejected assertions that the F-16 sale was being delayed in order to obtain Turkey’s approval for new NATO bids. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in January this year that it was made clear by the US side that approval of NATO bids would be viewed positively by the US Congress.

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

AFP quoted an unnamed source who said that the US had previously told Turkey that if IT doesn’t greenlight Sweden, it would be hard to approve the F-16 deal.

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

(With inputs from agencies)

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