US President Joe Biden voiced concerns over the acquisition of Russian missiles and human rights during his meeting with Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome on Sunday.
The meeting was the two leaders’ second since Biden was elected president after they had met in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in June.
According to a media release from the White House, President Biden “underscored his desire to maintain constructive relations, expand areas of cooperation, and manage our disagreements effectively.”
Biden expressed appreciation for Turkey’s nearly two decades of contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The leaders discussed the political process in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus.
Biden concerned over S-400 missile system
“President Biden reaffirmed our defense partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO Ally, but noted U.S. concerns over Turkey’s possession of the Russian S-400 missile system. He also emphasized the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity,” the release says.
“The president in general set out his commitment to human rights, to rule of law, and all of those issues and acknowledged that those are something that he cares about,” a White House official said without providing more detail.
Relations between the US. and Turkey have frayed since the US. canned Turkey’s $1.4 billion investment in its North Atlantic Treaty Organization-endorsed F-35 fighter jet program after buying components for Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
Erdogan wants to buy F-16 fighters
The US seized the five F-35s Turkey had paid for and did not pay back $1.4 billion. Recently, Turkey asked for the purchase of 40 F-16 fighters and 80 modernization kits for its existing planes in a bid not to weaken its air forces.
The most important subject in this meeting would be the F-35 issue, Erdogan had said ahead of his meeting with Biden. He noted that there are signals from Washington to deliver the F-16 warplanes in return for the money Turkey paid for the F-35 program.
However, as Greek Reporter reporter earlier in October, members of the US Congress are piling on pressure on the Department of State to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
A cross-party letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expresses opposition both for the acquisition of new F-16 fighter jets and the upgrading of existing ones.
The initiative belongs to Representatives Chris Pappas, Gus Bilirakis, and Carolyn Maloney and enjoys the support of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), as well as Armenian, Indian, and Kurdish organizations.
It follows Turkey’s request earlier this month to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and the modernization of almost 80 of its existing fighter jets.
The deal, worth billions, is still working its way through the Foreign Military Sales process which is subject to approval by the US State Department as well as the US Congress which can block deals.