Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 program, from which Ankara was removed after purchasing the S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, Reuters reports.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a trip to West Africa, Erdogan said Turkey wants a return for its investment in the F-35 program and that talks on the issue are ongoing.
"There is the payment of $1.4 billion we have made for the F-35s and the U.S. had such a proposal in return for these payments," Erdogan was quoted as having said.
"And regarding this, we said let's take whatever steps are needed to be taken to meet the defense needs of our country," he said, adding that the new F-16 jets would help develop its fleet.
Relations between the US and Turkey have soured in recent years, after Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system that the US believes can be used to spy on Western defenses.
In response to the purchase, the US sanctioned Turkey’s military procurement agency and expelled Turkey from the F-35 program, under which Western allies produce the next-generation fighter jet's parts and secure its early purchasing rights.
Turkey has repeatedly made clear it will use the Russian system despite US threats of sanctions.
The relations with the US became more complicated when President Joe Biden, who has also made a point of highlighting Turkey's deteriorating record on human rights, took three full months after his swearing-in ceremony before placing his first call to Erdogan.
That phone call was to inform him that Washington was recognizing the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Erdogan denounced the move and urged Biden to swiftly reverse it, advising the United States to "look in the mirror".
In June, Erdogan and Biden held what the Turkish President described as a "fruitful and sincere" meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
Last month, Erdogan acknowledged that relations with his Biden had "not gotten off to a good start" since the latter's arrival in the White House.