Biden praises Erdoğan for allowing Finland, Sweden to join NATO
President Biden praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday for dropping objections to the bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
“I want to particularly thank you for what you did putting together the situation with regard to Finland and Sweden, and all the incredible work you’re doing to try to get the grain out of Ukraine,” Biden told Erdoğan during a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid. “You’re doing a great job.”
Erdoğan said he believed both leaders “will be able to go back to our countries with our hands full and with full satisfaction” after the summit. He also praised Biden for his leadership, calling it “crucial in terms of strengthening NATO for the future.”
The meeting between the two leaders took place a day after Turkey agreed to drop its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, paving the way for a major expansion of the alliance. NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance earlier Wednesday, after the two countries had expressed interest in joining amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The three countries agreed to sign a memorandum deepening their counterterrorism cooperation on Tuesday that addressed Turkey’s concerns about the two Nordic countries not doing enough to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and others.
There has also been broad speculation that the U.S. could announce a deal to sell upgraded F-16 fighter jets to Turkey as part of the effort to persuade Ankara to support the accession of Sweden and Finland.
Senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. did not offer Turkey concessions to drop its objections to the two Nordic countries joining the alliance.
Still, a senior U.S. defense official signaled Wednesday that the U.S. is willing to sell F-16s to Turkey.
“The United States supports Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said during a briefing with reporters.
A subsequent White House readout of the meeting between Biden and Erdoğan made no mention of the F-16 fighter jets.
“The leaders discussed their continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression, as well as the importance of removing Russian obstacles to the export of Ukrainian grain,” the readout said. “They also talked about the importance of maintaining stability in the Aegean and Syria. President Biden reiterated his desire to maintain constructive bilateral relations, and the leaders agreed on the importance of continued close consultations between our governments.”
The decision by Turkey to allow Finland and Sweden to join the alliance is viewed as an accomplishment for Biden, who publicly and vociferously endorsed the expansion of NATO at a White House event with the leaders of the two Nordic countries back in May.
Biden administration officials have been engaged with Turkey, Sweden and Finland behind the scenes. Biden held a phone call with Erdoğan on Tuesday — his first one-on-one engagement with the Turkish president in months — in a sign that negotiations were making progress.
— Updated at 2:18 p.m.