(Bloomberg) --  

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO summit to push for the purchase of dozens of new F-16 warplanes and upgrade kits to modernize his nation’s fleet.

The meeting in Madrid comes after Erdogan dropped his opposition to Swedish and Finnish bids to join NATO, bringing the alliance one step closer to bolstering its eastern front with Russia. He is now seeking Biden’s support to strengthen the air force of Turkey, the second-largest military force in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the US. 

Earlier, both the US and Turkey ruled out any bargaining on long-standing requests like F-16 fighter jets in exchange for allowing Sweden and Finland to begin the process of joining the alliance.

The Turkish leader’s decision to let the Nordics’ NATO bids proceed paved the way for a formal meeting with the US president, according to a senior Biden administration official. The two leaders are expected to discuss a full range of issues, the official said, which includes Turkey’s long-standing defense requests.

Erdogan is now seeking to capitalize on a relatively positive atmosphere in relations with NATO and the US after a period of frosty ties over his government’s purchase of advanced Russian air defenses. 

That led the Pentagon to oust Turkey from the program to buy -- and help build -- Lockheed Martin Corp.’s more advanced F-35 fighter in 2019 on the grounds that Russian S-400 missile systems might be used to gather intelligence on the stealth jet. 

In September, Turkey sent a formal request to the US to buy 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft and nearly 80 kits from Lockheed Martin to modernize its existing fighters. 

Turkey hopes to eventually develop its own jets but meantime is overdue to retire its F-4 jets and wants to upgrade its F-16 fleet as a stopgap measure. The F-16 deal is potentially worth $6 billion, but requires full support of Biden’s administration to win approval of the Congress for the sale.

Tracking the Feuds Plaguing the U.S.-Turkey Alliance: QuickTake

The Biden administration in May asked Congress to approve a separate sale of weapons and equipment upgrades to Turkey’s fleet of American-made F-16 fighter jets which is expected to exceed $500 million. The informal reviews submitted to Congress include the proposed sale of Sidewinder missiles, Amraam missiles and software and hardware updates to F-16 cockpits already in Turkey. 

The Turkish government has sought a middle ground toward the war in Ukraine, refraining to burn its bridges with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- in part fearing a rupture would put Turkish forces deployed in Syria at risk of attack by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

However, it has supplied Kyiv with lethal Turkish-made armed drones and shut its straits and air space to Russian military ships and aircraft.

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