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Erdogan says Turkey will keep promise on Sweden's NATO bid if US approves F-16s

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country's ratification of Sweden's NATO accession depends on Washington keeping its promises to Ankara.

Sep 26,  2023

By Ezgi Akin


Source: https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2023/09/erdogan-says-turkey-will-keep-promise-swedens-nato-bid-if-us-approves-f-16s

ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey will keep its promise to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession if Washington keeps its pledges to Ankara, including on the sale of the F-16 fighter jets.

Speaking on his way back from Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan bordering Turkey, Erdogan recalled that his Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his American counterpart Antony Blinken discussed Sweden's NATO accession during their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit last Friday in New York.

“My hope is that if they stay true to their word, our parliament will also stay true to its word and will act accordingly,” Erdogan told journalists onboard without elaborating, according to the Turkish presidency’s Communication Directorate.

Asked whether he was referring to the pending Turkish bid to buy new F-16 jets and modernization kits from the United States, Erdogan said, “They are linking Sweden to the F-16s. …  In turn, we say if you have a Congress, we have a parliament.”

Turkey had requested in October 2021 to buy $20 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits. High-ranking members of Congress have objected to this sale, but could soften their position if Ankara ratifies Sweden’s bid, improves relations with Greece and maintains distance from Russia.

Turkey and Hungary are the sole holdouts that haven’t ratified Sweden’s NATO accession after the Nordic nation formally applied to join the transatlantic alliance last year.

Under a trilateral statement with Turkey, Sweden and NATO on the sidelines of the alliance’s Vilnius summit in July, Erdogan greenlit his country’s ratification, but postponed it to October, when the Turkish Parliament returns from a summer recess.

Earlier this month, he also added further uncertainty to the issue, saying it was for the Turkish Parliament to decide whether to greenlight Sweden’s application and not for himself to decide. Erdogan’s ruling coalition has a parliamentary majority. The president said he would also have further discussions with his coalition partners on the issue.

“We cannot bypass our parliament. … Our parliament follows every development about this issue in detail. It is at the discretion of our parliament when it will make that decision and what the decision will be,” he said.

Erdogan also took a swipe at the former head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who stepped down from the post last week after being indicted in an alleged bribery scheme involving Egypt.

Recalling the senator's opposition to the sale of the new jet fighters to Turkey, Erdogan said, “Menendez's exclusion would give us an advantage, but the F-16 issue is not something that solely depends only on Menendez.”