President Biden met with Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome Sunday amid intensifying relations between the two countries over a diplomatic rift and Turkey’s request to purchase US F-16 fighter jets.
The two leaders had a “constructive conversation” and hit on a number of issues, including Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, the sale of the F16s and human rights, according to a senior administrator official who briefed the news media following the sit down in Rome.
The official was asked if Biden supported the sale of the military equipment to Turkey.
“I think the Turkish government and Erdogan, including in his public comments in the last couple of weeks, have been very clear that there is a desire by Turkey to purchase the F16s. And the president took on board his desire to have them but made very clear that there is a process that we have to go through in the US and committed to continuing to work through that process,” the administration official said.
The two NATO allies have been at odds over Erdogan’s threat to toss the US ambassador to Turkey and 10 other foreign envoys from Western nations for seeking the release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, who they say is a political prisoner.
Erdogan did not follow through on his threat.
Turkey has requested the US sell them 40 F-16 warplanes to update its air force, but US lawmakers have balked over the sale because of Ankara’s recent purchase of a defense system from Russia and the country’s human rights record.
The senior administration official said the president raised the topic of human rights with Erdogan.
“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. And those are issues that he is going to continue to raise and that his administration is going to continue to raise,” the official said.
It was the second meeting between Erdogan and Biden since he became president in January.
The two leaders met in June during a NATO summit.
During the second day of the gathering in Rome, Biden is expected to meet with leaders of the G20 nations to discuss the global supply chain problems that have delayed goods getting to ports around the world.
He is scheduled to hold a news conference Sunday afternoon.
The president arrived in Rome for the talks on Friday with a full agenda even as his domestic agenda – consisting of the infrastructure bill and social spending package – is stalled in Congress among infighting by progressive and moderate Democrats.
Before attending the summit, Biden, a Catholic, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for about 90 minutes before receiving communion at St. Patrick’s Church.
From Rome, Biden will travel for a United Nations conference on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland.
He returns to Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
With Post wires