Turkey Holds Sweden’s NATO Bid Hostage for F-16 Fighter Jets
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the parliament will move forward with Sweden’s NATO membership bid only if the US gives green light to the sale of F-16 fighter jets and Canada’s arms embargo.
Sweden’s membership to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been prolonged for more than a year because of Ankara. Turkey had delayed the process buy alleging that Sweden did not take its security concerns seriously in regards to Kurdish militants and other militant groups which Ankara described as security threats.
Last week, Fuat Oktay Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission chairman said there is no rush to approve Sweden’s accession to NATO. He added that they may not discuss it until the start of 2024 and the US should stop making the issue a prerequisite for the sale of F-16 warplanes to Ankara.
Sweden’s NATO Bid up to US, Canada
Erdogan said in November that he would try to facilitate the ratification process. The bill needs to be approved by the commission for ratification before it goes to the parliament for vote. The Turkish president would then sign it into law concluding the process.
But now, it’s all up the US and Canada to make it as easy and quick as possible. “Positive developments we expect both on procuring US F-16s and Canada’s promises on lifting its arms embargo would help our parliament to have a positive approach on Sweden. All of them are linked.”
Erdogan said the issue of Sweden’s NATO bid was discussed with the US President Joe Biden in a call last week. “In the call, Mr Biden said ‘You pass this Sweden’s NATO bid from the parliament and I will get the F-16 passed from the Congress.”
Canada had agreed to restart talks with Turkey on lifting export controls on drone parts after Erdogan signaled in July that Sweden would get the green light from Ankara.
Turkey Wants F-16 Fighter Jets
Turkey wants to modernize and upgrade its fleet of fighter jets, with F-16s being on top of the list. But the US is not too keen, disagreement with Turkey’s procurement intentions. Turkey is now using it to hold Sweden from its NATO membership and is even considering purchasing the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, developed co-jointly by China and Pakistan, if the US holds back.
The US has yet to keep its promise and Turkey is holding on to it, with Sweden’s NATO membership on the line. “If the US keep their promises, our parliament will keep its own promise as well. Turkish parliament will have the final say on Sweden’s NATO membership.”