President Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Sunday that US President Joe Biden’s administration is connecting F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkish acceptance of Sweden’s NATO membership ambition, which “seriously upsets” Ankara.
Erdogan stated during a news conference following the G20 summit in the Indian city of New Delhi that he had a “pull-aside” discussion with Biden on the fringes of the event and that they discussed the supply of F-16s to Turkey.
According to Erdogan, Biden forged a link between the provision of F-16s and Turkish involvement in ratifying Sweden’s bid to join NATO. “This approach irritates us greatly,” he added.
Turkey, which had been the main stumbling block in Sweden’s path towards NATO, asked in October 2021 to buy $20 billion worth of Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
After months of objections, Erdogan agreed at a NATO summit in July to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament for ratification.
A day later, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington would proceed with the transfer of F-16s to Turkey in consultation with Congress.
However, the timing of both the F-16 transaction and the Turkish parliament’s green light for Sweden remains unclear.
“If you say that Congress will decide (on sales of F-16s to Turkey), then we have a Congress in Turkey as well – it is the Turkish parliament,” Erdogan told reporters. “It is not possible for me to say ‘yes’ (to Sweden’s NATO membership bid) alone unless such a decision is approved by (our) parliament.”
Ankara has accused Sweden of harbouring militants hostile to the Turkish state, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and United States.
Erdogan also said Sweden should “keep its promises” and take more steps – which would include extraditing alleged PKK militants and preventing pro-PKK rallies in Sweden – before Turkey clears its NATO bid.
To address Turkish concerns, Stockholm passed legislation in June outlawing being a member of a terrorist group or providing logistical and financial help to proscribed groups.
Stockholm recently voiced hope that Turkish lawmakers would ratify its NATO bid when they reconvene in October, as agreed at the NATO summit in July.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to enter NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine. While Finnish membership was sealed in April, Sweden’s bid remains held up by Turkey and Hungary.
Turkish Foreign Minister has said Ankara and Budapest are working in close coordination on the issue.