Despite opposition by some members of the US Congress, the Biden administration doesn’t link the two issues, F-16 jets sale to Türkiye and Sweden’s NATO accession, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“While we are not linking the two issues –when I say we, I mean the Biden administration — some members of Congress are, they are linking Sweden’s accession to NATO to the moving forward on the F-16s,” Blinken said at a news conference alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Lulea, Sweden.
Blinken defined the two as “distinct issues,” and noted Sweden’s accession to the NATO and F-16 sales to Türkiye are “vital” to European security.
“We believe it’s important that Türkiye have the F-16s with F-16 upgrades, as a critical member of the NATO alliance to make sure that they are operating at the highest standards of the alliance, that they’re fully interoperable with every other ally,” he said.
Türkiye has raised “important and legitimate concerns,” regarding the NATO bids of the two Nordic countries, he said, and Sweden and Finland have addressed those concerns.
“From our perspective, we believe that both should go forward and should go forward as quickly as possible,” he said.
Ankara made a request to Washington for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits in October 2021 and is waiting for a green light from the US Congress.
Some US lawmakers objected to the sale, tying its approval to ratification of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.
– ‘Every NATO ally has to make its own decision’
The Swedish premier said he discussed various issues with Blinken — challenges and opportunities in technology as well as Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Noting that the news conference is taking place in Lulea in northern Sweden, Kristersson said the Russian border is a six-and-a-half-hour drive from that location.
“Filling the territorial gap in the north will be one of Sweden’s many security contributions to NATO when we join the alliance,” he said.
In response to a question about talks with Türkiye, Kristersson said his government is in constant contact with Türkiye on the bid and had several contacts after Türkiye’s presidential election Sunday.
He said Sweden is fulfilling the commitments in line with the memorandum last year and the final part is being put into effect June 1, with the new piece of legislation on counterterrorism.
“We have always recognized the fact that every NATO ally has to make its own decision and only Türkiye can make Türkiye’s decisions and we fully respect that, so, that’s basically it,” he added.
Although Türkiye approved Finland’s membership to NATO, it is waiting for Sweden to abide by a trilateral memorandum signed last June in Madrid to address Ankara’s security concerns.