Ns News Online Desk: While Ankara described the two leaders’ meeting as positive, Washington said that defense partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO ally were reaffirmed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and United States President Joe Biden met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome on Sunday and expressed their joint desire to strengthen bilateral relations that have been strained as of late, agreeing to establish a joint mechanism in this direction.
Releasing a statement after the 70-minute meeting, Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate said the exchange took place in a positive atmosphere and that bilateral relations and regional issues were discussed.
During the meeting, the two leaders declared a shared will to further strengthen and develop Turkey-U.S. relations and agreed to establish a joint mechanism in this direction.
In addition to negotiating steps to be taken by both sides, in line with their shared perspective on increasing the bilateral trade volume per mutually agreed targets, they stressed the importance of the NATO alliance and strategic partnership. Both presidents expressed their satisfaction with the steps taken by the other regarding climate change.
The White House said that Biden underscored his desire to maintain constructive relations with Turkey during the meeting with Erdoğan.
“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,” the White House said in a statement after the meeting.
“He also emphasized the importance of strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law for peace and prosperity,” it said.
The White House statement said Biden and Erdoğan also discussed the political process in Syria, humanitarian assistance for Afghans, elections in Libya, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and diplomatic efforts in the South Caucasus.
“We’re planning to have a good conversation,” Biden said in response to a question on Turkey’s possible purchase of F-16 jets from the United States as the two leaders stood together before their meeting in Rome.
The leaders were expected to discuss bilateral relations and regional matters, including Syria, Libya and Afghanistan along with other issues related to Turkey’s request for clarity in the ongoing F-35 fighter jet dispute. Erdoğan and Biden are also expected to attend the world leaders’ summit at the start of the U.N. climate summit, known as COP26, which starts on Sunday in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
The United States is discussing ways for Turkey to buy F-16 fighters after a deal for more advanced F-35s was scrapped due to Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system, officials said recently.
Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 that Ankara wants to buy the cheaper F-16s using the $1.4 billion (TL 13.45 billion) it allotted for the F-35 fighter jet program. Erdoğan has said Washington offered Ankara a package of F-16 jets and modernization kits in exchange for the payment.
But one U.S. official said that any possible F-16 order could be dogged by the same issue that forced the cancellation of the F-35s: Turkey’s decision to buy an S-400 missile system from Russia.
Turkey has been indicating that Ankara still intends to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia, despite opposition from the U.S.
U.S. defense officials met in Ankara on Wednesday with their Turkish counterparts to resolve remaining issues from the F-35 program, and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke on Thursday with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.
A Pentagon statement said the “meeting demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. government to conclude respectfully Turkey’s prior involvement in the F-35 program.”