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Erdoğan says Turkey will back Sweden’s NATO bid if US keeps promise on F-16 sale

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Turkey’s parliament will keep its promise to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid if US President Joe Biden’s administration paves the way for F-16 jet sales to Ankara, Reuters reported, citing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday,

Speaking to reporters on his flight back from Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan, Erdoğan said that Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Sweden’s NATO membership bid last week in New York.

The US administration is linking F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s bid, Erdoğan said.

“If they [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,” he said.

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 some 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.

After months of objections, Erdoğan agreed at a NATO summit in July to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament for ratification.

A day later, US 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 remain unclear.

Ankara has accused Sweden of harboring militants hostile to the Turkish state, mainly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Erdoğan 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 membership a terrorist group or providing logistical or 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.

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