This meeting is the first official visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu to America after the Biden administration took office.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is hosting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington, which is expected to deal with the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets and Turkey’s refusal to approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
Wednesday’s meeting was the first official visit by Turkey’s top diplomat since US President Joe Biden took office nearly two years ago – something observers said could reflect strained relations between the two countries. Blinken and Çavuşoğlu have already met within the framework of NATO meetings and UN meetings
Before the meeting, American and Turkish officials said that the main issues will be Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Syria and energy cooperation.
While Ankara and Washington are in agreement in many areas, there are several points of disagreement.
The United States praised Turkey for some of its actions after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, especially the mediation of the grain corridor talks. However, concerns about the deepening of Ankara’s relationship with Moscow continue. Relations between the NATO allies have been strained since Turkey acquired a Russian missile defense system in 2019, prompting Ankara to withdraw from the next-generation F-35 fighter jet program.
Turkey now hopes to buy F-16 fighter jets from the US, a sale that some senior members of Congress oppose even as the Biden administration supports it.
In Syria, the United States is worried about Turkey’s possible intention to carry out a military operation on the border against Kurdish armed groups, as well as its intention to normalize relations with Damascus.
Meanwhile, Turkey has become the main obstacle for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, which requires the approval of all 30 member countries. Turkey and Hungary have not yet accepted the applications.
Turkey has accused those countries of supporting Kurdish groups that they consider to be “terrorists”. Sweden, in particular, should first show a clearer attitude towards these groups, as well as the people it accuses of the 2016 coup attempt.
Erdogan said on Monday that the two countries must deport or hand over 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before parliament accepts their bid to join NATO. Officials in the Nordic countries said the demands were far-reaching.
On Tuesday, Finland said it hoped the visit of Turkey’s US foreign minister would help resolve the issue.
Selling the F-16
This meeting comes after the US State Department informally informed the committees of the US Senate and the House of Representatives that oversee arms sales, about its intention to sell $20 billion worth of F-16 aircraft to Turkey.
The move drew a backlash from statements by members of Congress who oppose the deal, including Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose leaders are reviewing major foreign military sales.
In a statement to the Reuters news agency, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said:[Turkish President Tayyip] Erdoğan’s repeated attacks on our Syrian Kurdish allies, and Russia’s continued defiance – including delaying Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership – are serious causes for concern.”
As I said before, in order for Turkey to receive F-16s, we need guarantees that these concerns will be resolved.
At the same time, İbrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, told reporters on Saturday that Washington’s demands for the supply of fighter jets are “unending.”
He added that he hoped the F-16 deal would not be held “hostage” to the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland.
While Congress can block foreign arms sales, it must do so by statute. Lawmakers have already failed to obtain the two-thirds majority in both chambers that is required for a presidential veto.