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Erdoğan says Sweden’s NATO bid and F-16 sale to Turkey are separate: report

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US President Joe Biden’s administration is linking F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey with Turkish ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid, which “seriously upsets” Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Addressing a press conference after the G20 summit in the Indian capital of New Delhi, Erdoğan said he had a “pull-aside” meeting with Biden on the sidelines of the gathering and that they discussed the sale of F-16s to Turkey.

Biden made a connection between the sale of F-16s and Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s application to join NATO, Erdoğan said, adding, “This approach seriously upsets us.”

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.

“If you say that Congress will decide [on the sale of F-16s to Turkey], then we have a congress in Turkey as well – it is the Turkish parliament,” Erdoğan told reporters. “It is not possible for me to say ‘yes’ [to Sweden’s NATO membership bid] alone unless such a decision is approved by [our] parliament.”

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.

Turkey’s foreign minister has said Ankara and Budapest are working in close coordination on the issue.

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