US President Joe Biden thanked his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Tuesday for his courage in dropping his opposition to Sweden’s accession to NATO, affirming his support to sale F16 fighter jets to Ankara.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Biden welcomed the success of major diplomatic efforts to persuade Erdoğan to drop his objection to Sweden joining the bloc.
Addressing Erdoğan, Biden said, “I want to thank you for your diplomacy and your courage… I want to thank you for your leadership”.
Frustration has grown in Western capitals over Erdoğan’s obstruction of Sweden’s accession, which requires the unanimity of all member states, noting that Stockholm and Helsinki submitted two requests for membership in the coalition in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February of last year.
On Sunday, Biden spoke by phone with Erdoğan for an hour, during which he sought to break the impasse and avoid an embarrassing fiasco at the Vilnius summit.
Last Monday night, on the eve of the NATO summit, Erdoğan abruptly dropped his objection.
Erdoğan has been stressing for months that Sweden should suppress members of banned Kurdish groups in Türkiye, which Sweden says it has done.
However, there was speculation about what concessions Türkiye would receive in return for giving it the green light.
Erdoğan had previously stipulated the re-launch of his country’s accession negotiations with the European Union to drop his objection to Sweden’s accession to NATO.
It seems that changing the Turkish position to solve the dilemma of Türkiye’s acquisition of modern F16 fighter jets, knowing that the issue has been pending for some time.
On Tuesday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that the US president has been clear and decisive for months regarding his support for the delivery of F16 fighter jets to Turkey, considering that this matter is in the interest of NATO.
Sullivan said that Biden “hasn’t placed any caveats or conditions on this in his statements in public or private councils over the past few months… He intends to proceed with that extradition process in consultation with Congress”.
A US official said that the White House is actively engaged with Congress, where there is significant opposition to the deal to sell fighters to Ankara.
Sullivan said, “We’ll work with Congress to find the appropriate time” for Türkiye to hand over the fighter jets, but he refused to predict a specific date for that.
Although NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Christson were actively involved in negotiations with Erdoğan, Sullivan stressed the great importance of the United States entering the line recently.
As for Erdoğan’s endeavor to link Türkiye’s aspiration to join the European Union and Sweden’s accession to NATO, Sullivan said that Biden has supported for a long time Türkiye’s accession to the European Union.
However, he stressed that this matter requires discussions regarding the necessary reforms and the steps required in terms of the durability of the democratic approach that every candidate for membership in the European Union must go through.
Sullivan said that the United States considers that there is no link between these two issues.