U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke about Sweden’s application to join the NATO alliance, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.
Kirby also told reporters at a briefing he would not be surprised if the issue of F-16 fighter jets was also discussed during the call.
“They talked about NATO and Sweden’s accession,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was also raised that we continue to support a modernization program for their F-16s.”
Sweden has asked to join NATO but has been left waiting due to resistance from members Turkey and Hungary.
Turkey had asked in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
The Biden administration backs the $20 billion sale, but there have been objections in the U.S. Congress over Turkey’s delaying of NATO enlargement to bring in Sweden, and over its human rights record.
The White House said later on Thursday that the leaders talked about “the importance of welcoming Sweden as an Ally as soon as possible and further enhancing” Turkey’s “interoperability” with NATO.
They said that Biden was supportive of “recent constructive steps” in relations between Greece and Turkey, and that Biden “reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself” and emphasized “the need for a political horizon for the Palestinian people.”