Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he expects steps from the US Congress on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara before his country’s parliament can ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
“As the president, I’ve done my part, but I have an expectation as well. The US should pass this [F-16 sales to Turkey] from its Congress, so that we can take these steps simultaneously,” Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday, according to broadcaster Haberturk and other Turkish media.
It remains unclear if and when the US Congress will move ahead with the plan, despite support for the sale from US President Joe Biden. And while there is no clear timeframe for approving the purchase request for the F-16s, Ankara has linked the issue to Sweden’s bid.
Last month, the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission delayed a vote on Sweden’s membership bid in a setback to the Nordic country’s hopes of joining the Western alliance after 18 months of waiting. For ratification, the bill needs to be approved by the commission before being put to a full parliament vote.
While Erdogan had previously said that he would try to facilitate the ratification process, he pointed out that Sweden had not taken enough action against Kurdish armed groups.
Turkey has demanded that Sweden take more steps to rein in local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.
NATO allies recently voiced disappointment over the prolonged process in Ankara.
Sweden and Finland requested to join NATO in May last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To join the alliance, a candidate must be approved by all members. While Finland’s accession was approved in April, Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden’s application for membership.
Erdogan’s comments come a day after Sweden signed a defence cooperation agreement with Washington that will allow the US access to all of the military bases across the Scandinavian country, saying the deal would bolster regional security.
Amid the impasse over Sweden’s accession, Erdogan will fly to Greece on Thursday on a visit designed to set the historically uneasy neighbours on a more constructive path.
Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will oversee joint Cabinet talks and trade consultations.
A series of cooperation deals will be signed as part of a so-called “positive agenda,” aimed at bypassing long-standing and often volatile disputes.
After years of tension and a looming risk of military confrontation, the NATO allies are seeking to rebuild trust and deliver a timely message of cooperation in the troubled eastern Mediterranean.
Source : Al Jazeera