In a phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, ahead of the forthcoming NATO summit, US President Joe Biden expressed his support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO, to which Erdoğan responded by stating that Sweden was still not ready for Turkey’s ratification.
The Turkish president acknowledged some positive steps taken by Sweden in amending its new anti-terrorism legislation, however, he told Biden that Ankara hadn’t seen sufficient progress from Sweden regarding its reduction in support for Kurdish groups that Turkey deems to be terrorists.
The phone call took place ahead of the two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Biden intends to push for a deal on the matter during the meeting in Vilnius.
Turkey has been blocking Sweden’s NATO ambitions since Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership in 2022.
The Turkish government has since set some conditions, including the extradition of certain people whom Turkey deems to be terrorists, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has promised to comply with Turkish demands.
While Turkey made allegations like “support for terrorism” against Finland too in the first instance, the president later approved Helsinki’s application, and the country became a NATO member in April.
Turkey to revive EU membership process
According to a statement issued by Turkey’s communications directorate summarising the bilateral call between the two presidents, Erdoğan also raised Turkey’s desire to revive the country’s EU membership process during the conversation. He expressed the hope that EU member states would convey a clear and strong message in support of Turkey’s EU aspirations at the NATO summit in Lithuania.
While Turkey obtained candidate status for EU membership in 1999, progress in the accession talks has been limited over the past decade. The country has not fulfilled the necessary reforms required to meet the criteria set out by Brussels.
Turkey requests F-16 aircraft
During their call, Biden and Erdoğan also discussed the potential sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. The Turkish president emphasised that it was incorrect to link Ankara’s request for F-16 aircraft with Sweden’s NATO membership bid, as reported in the statement.
In an interview with CNN earlier on Sunday, Biden had expressed optimism regarding Sweden’s eventual admission to NATO. He acknowledged Turkey’s interest in upgrading its F-16 aircraft and further highlighted that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was also seeking support on the same issue.
Recognising these needs, the US President explained that he aimed to establish a consortium to strengthen NATO by enhancing the military capabilities of both Greece and Turkey. This approach would pave the way for Sweden’s entry into the alliance. However, he said that the process was still ongoing and not yet finalised.
Erdoğan and Biden agreed to meet face-to-face in Vilnius during the NATO summit to discuss relations between Turkey and the United States, as well as regional issues.