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Erdogan says he’ll meet Biden to discuss payment for canceled F-35 program

Despite Turkish leader’s claim, meeting isn’t on US president’s schedule for COP26; Washington kicked Ankara out of program after Turkey bought Russian air defense system

U . Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer, Presidential Press Service Pool via AP)
U . Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer, Presidential Press Service Pool via AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he expects to meet US President Joe Biden on the margins of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow to discuss compensation after Ankara was removed from a program to buy F-35 planes.

Turkey is seeking $1.4 billion in compensation after Washington kicked the NATO ally out of the program for buying a Russian missile defense system.

Turkey’s 2019 purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system saw Washington block Ankara’s plans to purchase about 100 next-generation US F-35 planes.

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.

Erdogan’s comments to reporters on his return flight from a trip to Azerbaijan came after the White House released Biden’s schedule at this weekend’s G20 summit in Rome that included no meeting with the Turkish leader. If it were to take place, the meeting would be the two leaders’ second since Biden was elected president.

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.”

Two US F-35 Lightning II’s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwestern United States, September 19, 2019. (US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)

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.

On Wednesday, US and Turkish military officials held talks in Ankara on winding up the canceled F-35 stealth program.

The Pentagon said the officials met in Ankara “to address remaining issues resulting from Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program, which was finalized on September 23.”

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 backed the threat after the embassies issued statements pledging to stay out of Turkey’s domestic affairs.

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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