US wants Turkey and Hungary to hurry up on approving Sweden’s NATO bid and hints at a backroom deal with Ankara to get it done

Will the procurement of U.S. fighter jets be enough for Turkey to approve Sweden’s accession to NATO?

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands during a press conference, in Luleå, Sweden, May 30, 2023. (TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstroemer via REUTERS)

It’s time for Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a press conference in Stockholm on Tuesday amid rumors that a deal on allowing Ankara to procure U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets may sweeten the deal.

The Scandinavian nation’s application to join the defense alliance has been pending since March last year. It requires unanimity among the existing 31 NATO members, but Hungary and Turkey are yet to formally sanction the move.

“From the perspective of the United States, the time is now to finalize Sweden’s accession,” Mr. Blinken told journalists alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

“We will continue to work to complete Sweden’s accession by the time our leaders gather in Vilnius for the NATO summit,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made allegations against the Swedish government, which he believes is giving safe harbor to individuals Turkey considers to be terrorists, while Hungary’s governing Fidesz party has been angered by Swedish criticism of Hungarian democracy and rule of law.

There have been several instances in which the Swedish government permitted anti-Erdoğan demonstrations in Stockholm; anti-Islam protests in Sweden involving the burning of the Quran have also been a source of anger for Ankara.

The parliaments of both countries formally ratified Finland’s accession to the alliance earlier this year, but Sweden’s future remains uncertain.

One roadmap to Swedish accession, however, could involve the Turkish procurement of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, and there are hints the Biden administration is open to talks on the matter.

Turkey was expelled from the procurement program for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets back in 2019 after Ankara purchased a number of S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missiles from Russia. But there may be a deal in the works to pave the way for Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO bid.

“I spoke to Erdoğan. I congratulated Erdoğan,” President Biden told journalists in Washington on Tuesday, referring to the Turkish president’s re-election.

“He still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done. And so we’ll be back in touch with one another,” Biden added.

Attempts were made by White House officials to walk back Biden’s remarks later on Tuesday, with White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre telling the press, “When it comes to any conditions as it relates to the sale of F-16s to Turkey, and with them approving Sweden’s bid to join NATO, that is not a condition.

“President Biden has long been clear that he supports selling F-16s to Turkey, which would help facilitate NATO interoperability,” she added.

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