Turkey’s parliament will keep its promise to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid if U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration paves the way for F-16 jet sales to Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. Erdogan’s comments came as he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the eve of NATO’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Both leaders said they discussed a range of issues.
The United States has been pressing for Ankara to lift its opposition to Swedish membership in NATO. The alliance hopes the Nordic nation’s joining decision will prompt other reluctant allies to follow suit.
But Erdogan has refused to drop his objections. He has demanded that Sweden extradite or expel numerous people linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist group. Sweden has sent some back, but many remain in the country.
Erdogan also wants the United States to stop sending F-16 fighter jets to a Turkish air force unit accused of collaborating with separatists in the country’s southeast. The unit, known as the 93rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, has been accused of killing at least 16 civilians in clashes with separatists. The Tactical Fighter Squadron is one of several units that the U.S. has been sending to Turkey in recent years to train Turkish pilots for the aircraft.
But the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and some other Republicans have vowed to block any sale of F-16s to Turkey unless the government reopens its file on the air force’s alleged collaboration with separatists. The two countries have a bilateral military sales agreement, but it expires in 2023.
While the U.S. wants Ankara to move forward on its NATO application, it is also looking for ways to strengthen the military partnership. The United States and other NATO allies have raised defense spending, including in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to help deter Moscow.
Despite the setbacks, the two sides are working hard to compromise. NATO allies and the United States have been pressing Ankara to lift its objections to speed up the process. The alliance is eager to welcome Sweden, which has been a close ally for decades and shares an open border with the E.U.
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