Biden, Erdogan discuss F-16 fighter jets and human rights

US President Joe Biden has held talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Rome amid tensions over human rights and a request from Turkey for F-16 fighter jets.

Biden told Turkey’s Erdogan on Sunday his request for F-16 fighter jets had to go through a process in the United States and expressed a desire to handle disagreements between the two countries effectively.

The leaders met amid tensions between the two countries over defence and human rights issues. US lawmakers have opposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets on the grounds that Turkey purchased Russian missile defence systems.

A different US administration official said on Saturday that Biden would warn his Turkish counterpart that any “precipitous” actions would not benefit US-Turkish relations and that crises should be avoided after Erdogan threatened to throw out the US ambassador to Turkey and other foreign envoys for seeking the release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Erdogan later withdrew his threat to expel the envoys. The Turkish president’s office said the meeting “took place in a positive atmosphere”.

“The two leaders expressed their joint commitment to further strengthening Turkey-US relations and agreed to establish a joint mechanism to that effect.

“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,” the statement read.

Biden “reaffirmed our defence partnership and Turkey’s importance as a NATO Ally, but noted US 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,” the statement said.

Both leaders also agreed to form a joint mechanism to improve strained ties, Turkish media reported.

Biden and Erdogan posed for photos before their talks on Sunday. Asked if he planned to give Turkey F-16s, Biden said they were “planning to have a good conversation”.