Biden to meet with Turkey's Erdogan in Rome on Sunday

Biden to meet with Turkey's Erdogan in Rome on Sunday
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Washington confirmed a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be held on on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.
The two leaders will meet on Sunday [Getty]

US President Joe Biden will meet with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, a senior US official said.

The NATO allies had been expected to hold a bilateral at the UN summit climate in Glasgow next week, but a senior US administration official briefed reporters on Saturday that it would take place "tomorrow".

Erdogan has had a rocky relationship with Biden, whom he last met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels in June.

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Turkey is currently seeking $1.4 billion in compensation after Washington kicked the NATO ally out of its F-35 fighter jet programme in retaliation for buying a Russian missile defence system.

The meeting would also come on the heels of a new diplomatic spat that saw Erdogan threaten to expel ambassadors from the United States and nine other Western nations over their support for a jailed Turkish civil society leader.

Erdogan, who accused the envoys of meddling in Turkey's affairs, walked back the threat after the embassies issued statements pledging to stay out of Turkey's domestic affairs.

Turkey's 2019 purchase of a Russian S-400 air defence system has been an irritant on ties, prompting Washington to block Ankara's plans to purchase about 100 next-generation US F-35 planes.

Read also: Turkey to deport Syrians for ‘banana-eating’ videos amid hostility to refugees

Erdogan has insisted on compensation, saying Washington could pay back at least part of the $1.4 billion advance payment Turkey made for the F-35s through the delivery of older-generation F-16 fighter jets. 

The F-35 issue will be the most important topic in his meeting with Biden, Erdogan said, adding that he would have a chance to directly confirm if Washington was willing to return the money through F-16 deliveries.

If so, he said, "we will have worked out an agreement."

Opposition in Congress 

Any military sales would have to be approved by the US Congress, where anti-Turkish sentiment is strong because of Erdogan's record on human rights.

Echoing pressure that helped lead to the F-35 cancellation, on Monday a group of 11 lawmakers in the US Congress wrote a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken objecting to any F-16 sale.

"We cannot afford to compromise our national security by sending US-manufactured aircraft to a treaty ally which continues to behave like an adversary," they said.

Both Washington and Ankara face risks in outright rejecting the other, and Erdogan likely feels pressure both from Biden and Putin, Erdemir said.

"I don't think there is any immediate solution to this deadlock, and that's why I think Washington and other European capitals are eyeing the 2023 election, hoping that that could be a way out," he said, referring to Turkish elections.