Turkey president Erdogan likely to meet Biden in Glasgow amid fighter jet dispute

Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a rocky relationship with Mr Joe Biden, whom he last met on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Brussels in June. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects to meet his United States counterpart Joe Biden on the margins of the COP26 United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Turkish media reported on Wednesday (Oct 27).

The meeting, which would be the two leaders' second since Mr Biden was elected president, comes with Turkey seeking US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) in compensation after Washington kicked the Nato ally out of its F-35 fighter jet programme for buying a Russian missile defence system.

Mr Erdogan's comments to reporters on his return flight from a trip to Azerbaijan came after the White House released Mr Biden's schedule at this weekend's Group of 20 summit in Rome, which included no meeting with the Turkish leader.

"The agenda for Rome and Glasgow appears to have changed," Mr Erdogan was quoted as saying. "We are likely to meet in Glasgow instead of Rome."

The COP26 climate conference opens in the Scottish city on Sunday and runs to Nov 12.

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

Mr 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.

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

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

Mr Erdogan has insisted on compensation, saying Washington could pay back at least part of the US$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 Mr Biden, Mr 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".

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

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

The Pentagon said the officials had met in Ankara "to address remaining issues resulting from Turkey's removal from the F-35 programme, which was finalised on September 23".

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