- Sweden's NATO bid and Türkiye's F-16 purchase from US are not linked, says President Erdogan
Amid a shift in circumstances, the Turkish foreign minister will "closely" track the issue of Ankara's bid to purchase F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits from the US, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
“Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will now follow this process closely. In fact, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Hakan Fidan met in the US three or four days ago. These talks are still ongoing. But now, it would be beneficial to turn this situation into an opportunity and meet with him again," Erdogan said on the presidential plane returning from a visit to Azerbaijan.
"One of our chief hurdles on the F-16 issue were the activities of US Senator Bob Menendez against our country,” he said, referring to Menendez’s indictment last week on corruption charges, sidelining him from some of his Senate duties, which Erdogan suggested may give new impetus to the sales: "We may have the opportunity to accelerate the process regarding the F-16s."
Erdogan said Menendez "being out of the picture" gives Türkiye an advantage, but added the F-16 is not just an issue related to Menendez.
"We now expect a clear answer from the US on this issue. We hope that we will get the positive result we expect without too much delay," he added.
Last week Menendez resigned from his position chairing the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he has resisted calls for him to leave his Senate seat entirely.
Sweden’s NATO bid soon up for consideration
Ankara requested F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits in October 2021. The $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 jets as well as modernization kits for 79 warplanes already in the Turkish Air Force inventory. The State Department has informally notified Congress of the potential sale.
However, key lawmakers on Capitol Hill have vowed to kill the deal over several demands, including making the purchase contingent on Ankara's approval of Sweden's NATO membership bid. Ankara maintains that the jets would strengthen not only Türkiye but also NATO.
The president also reiterated that Sweden's NATO bid and Türkiye's F-16 purchase from the US are not linked, adding that this is at the discretion of the Turkish parliament.
"If they fulfill their promises, our parliament will also fulfill its own and take its steps accordingly," Erdogan said, adding that the Turkish parliament has the final say on Sweden's NATO membership.
"When the issue comes to the agenda of parliament, we will see together what the decision will be," he stressed.
At a July NATO summit in Lithuania, Erdogan agreed to forward to the Turkish parliament Sweden's bid to join NATO for a ratification vote. As parliament is on summer recess, it will take up the legislation after it reconvenes next week. All current members of NATO have to agree to any new additions to the alliance.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022.
Although Türkiye approved Finland's NATO membership, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments not to provide shelter to terrorists or supporters of terrorists and not to facilitate their actions.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.