Turkey’s Erdogan wants F-16 fighter jet sale before approving Swedish NATO membership

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, right, drives a car with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

Movement on the U.S. sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara and the Canadian arms embargo would help the Turkish parliament ratify Sweden’s application for NATO membership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“We expect positive developments on the F-16 and Canada’s pledge, which could help our parliament to take a positive stance on Sweden’s case. These are all connected here,” the Turkish president told reporters on his plane home from a visit to Hungary.

Turkey applied in October 2021 to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets and 79 modernization kits for its existing fighter aircraft. The U.S. government backed the $20 billion deal, but its lawmakers objected to Turkey’s human rights record and Ankara’s obstruction to Sweden’s NATO membership.

As to Canada, it has agreed to reopen talks with Turkey on lifting an export ban on drone parts, including optical equipment, after Erdoğan indicated in July that such a move would sweeten the deal for Turkish lawmakers on Swedish membership of the defense alliance.

Erdoğan also revealed he had discussed the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden last week.

“During the phone conversation, Mr. Biden said, ‘If Sweden’s NATO membership application is passed in the Turkish parliament, I will pass the sale of the F-16 fighter jets in Congress,'” the Turkish president said.

According to Erdoğan, the possibility of resolving the two issues simultaneously was also raised recently by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“If we act simultaneously, it will be much easier to push (Sweden’s accession) through parliament,” the Turkish president quoted his own foreign minister as saying to Blinken.

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