Erdogan links Turkey's approval of Sweden's NATO bid to US approval of F-16 saletext_fields
Ankara: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has put forward a condition for Turkey's endorsement of Sweden's NATO membership application, tying it to the simultaneous approval of Ankara's request for F-16 fighter jets by the US Congress.
This comes after Sweden and Finland, responding to Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, sought protection under the US-led defence organisation, swiftly gaining approval from all NATO members except Turkey and Hungary.
While Hungary and Turkey initially opposed Sweden's bid, they eventually accepted Finland into the alliance earlier this year. Erdogan, in July, withdrew his objections to Sweden's NATO entry after Stockholm took actions targeting Kurdish groups, which Ankara considers terrorist organisations.
However, the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee recently postponed sending the application for a vote by the full chamber, a move that drew criticism from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Erdogan reiterated on Friday that Turkey's parliament would only proceed with Sweden's NATO membership if the US Congress concurrently greenlights Turkey's purchase of F-16 fighter jets and spare parts, reported AFP.
Addressing reporters, Erdogan stated, "You say you will take steps on the F-16 issue after passing it through the Congress, but I also have a parliament. If we are two allied countries in NATO, then you can do your part simultaneously, in solidarity, and our parliament will do its part."
Turkey has faced challenges in modernising its ageing air force since being ousted from the US-led F-35 joint strike fighter program in 2019. This was a retaliatory move by the US due to Turkey's procurement of an advanced Russian missile defence system, which NATO deemed a security threat.
The Biden administration has repeatedly assured Turkey of advancing the $20-billion F-16 sale, yet it has encountered resistance from Congress over concerns about Turkey's human rights record, past disputes with NATO ally Greece, and complexities regarding Turkey's stance on Israel's Gaza war.
Erdogan also expressed no intention of meeting President Biden soon, stating, "A meeting with President Biden is not on our agenda." He mentioned Turkey's displeasure with the US stance on Gaza but added, "If he calls us, we will meet with him and talk about whatever issues we need to talk about."