ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday made Turkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s stalled Nato membership application conditional on the US Congress “simultaneously” approving Ankara’s request for F-16 fighter jets.

Erdogan gave a second strong signal on Friday that parliament will only act on Sweden if the US Congress approves Turkiye’s requested purchase of dozens of F-16 fighter jets and spare parts.

“You say you will take steps on the F-16 issue after passing it through the Congress, but I also have a parliament,” Erdogan told reporters, referring to the United States.

“If we are two allied countries in Nato, then you can do your part simultaneously, in solidarity, and our parliament will do its part. That’s the thing.”

Sweden and Finland dropped decades of military non-alignment and sought the nuclear protection afforded by the US-led defence organisation in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Their bids won fast-track approval from all Nato members except Turkiye and Hungary.

The two ultimately relented and accepted Finland into the bloc this year. Erdogan in July lifted his objections to Sweden’s membership after Stockholm took steps aimed at cracking down on Kurdish groups that Ankara views as terrorists.

But the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee last month delayed forwarding the application for a vote by the full chamber — a decision that drew a stern rebuke from Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Turkiye’s ageing air force has suffered from Ankara’s expulsion from the US-led F-35 joint strike fighter programme in 2019.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2023

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