Erdoğan seeking Biden meeting at G20 for $6 billion arms deal request

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants is looking to use the upcoming G20 summit to lobby U.S. counterpart Joe Biden to allow Ankara to purchase American warplanes as part of an effort to overcome U.S. resistance to major arms deals with his country following Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Ankara last month sent a formal request to United States for the purchase of 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft and nearly 80 kits from Lockheed Martin Corp., Bloomberg said, citing two Turkish officials with knowledge on the matter.

The potential $6 billion deal will be difficult to win, the officials said, citing Congress’s opposition to Turkey’s S-400 acquisition and Ankara’s refusal to turn its back on the systems.

Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 in July 2019 caused a serious rupture in relations with its NATO ally. Washington responded by booting the Turkish Air Force out of the F-35 joint strike fighter programme and ended the participation of Turkish firms in the industrial production of parts for the jet. Prior to its expulsion, the Turkish military planned to acquire 120 F-35s.

The United States fears that Russian technicians would be able to use the S-400 to gather intelligence on the F-35 by operating alongside it within a NATO member-state. But Turkey has aggressively defended the purchase from Russia as a matter of national sovereignty, despite U.S. sanctions against Turkish defence industry officials and its main procurement agency after the first operational test of the S-400 in October 2020.

Erdoğan expects to meet Biden during the Group of 20 nations summit in Rome at the end of this month, Bloomberg said, despite the lack of an announcement of such a meeting and information on how Biden would view the request.

Ankara is looking to secure jets compatible with NATO, the sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Bloomberg.

Reuters on Friday had reported on Turkey’s for dozens of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters jets and almost 80 modernisation kits for its existing fleet of F-16s.

The country is seeking to modernise its air force after being banned from procuring fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters.