U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit Monday in Ankara that the Biden administration supports the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. He also expressed confidence that both Sweden and Finland will soon join the NATO alliance.
The U.S. Congress must approve the $20 billion F-16 sale, which includes a Turkish request for 40 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits.
Blinken said during a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that he could not provide a timeline on formally notifying Congress about the proposed sale, but that he has been actively communicating the Biden administration's support for the deal.
"This is very important for ongoing NATO interoperability and in the national security of the United States," Blinken said.
He met later Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The visit comes as Turkey and Hungary remain the only NATO members that have not approved Sweden and Finland joining the alliance in a process that must be unanimous.
Blinken said the United States supports the admission of Sweden and Finland "as soon as possible."
He said he is "confident that NATO will formally welcome them soon, and when that happens, it will enhance the security of every NATO member, including the United States, including Turkey."
Turkey has expressed security concerns regarding Sweden, saying it has been too lenient toward groups that Turkey considers terror organizations. Cavusoglu said all parties need to convince Sweden to address those concerns.
Faruk Logoglu, the former Turkish ambassador to the United States, told VOA that Turkey "is standing its own ground" and does not yet appear to be ready to approve the membership of Sweden and Finland.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week during his own visit to Turkey that "the time is now" for Turkey to ratify both countries as new NATO members.
Turkish officials have said Turkey may evaluate the two bids separately and could approve Finland's on its own.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Monday he remained "convinced" that Sweden and Finland will join NATO together.
"There are serious issues between Turkey and the United States," said Ilhan Uzgel, a professor of international relations, in an interview with VOA.
He said Blinken's visit to Turkey, along with U.S. aid to earthquake victims, is not likely to bring major changes in the relations between Turkey and the U.S. in the short run.
A day after announcing pledges of $100 million in additional U.S. aid for Turkey and Syria after the February 6 earthquake that has killed nearly 45,000 people, Blinken promised enduring support for Turkey.
"The United States is here to support you in your time of need, and we will be by your side as long as it takes to recover and rebuild," Blinken told reporters.
Blinken is next traveling to Greece where the State Department said he will "discuss defense cooperation, energy security and our shared commitment to defend democracy" with leaders there.
VOA's Turkish Service contributed to this report. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.