During a visit to Turkey, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly urged Sweden and Finland to join NATO soon. The US is “as fast as possible” for admission, Blinken said at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara. At the same time, Blinken said his government supports the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. Cavusoglu told a news conference with Blinken that Turkey may be ready to agree to both countries joining. But there are still PKK supporters in Sweden – Stockholm tolerates support for the Kurdish Workers Party, which is banned in Turkey.
The Turkish foreign minister acknowledged that Sweden had partially met Ankara’s demands. But it must do more to “convince our parliament and our people”.
In January, the Koran burning outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm caused outrage in Ankara:
Blinken made clear his country’s willingness to supply Turkey with F-16 fighter jets. As Turkey is a “NATO ally and partner, this is in our national interest and in the interest (…) of the alliance,” Blinken said at the press conference.
However, he cannot give a deadline for delivery, as the US Congress will decide on that. The sale of the F-16 fighters was blocked by the US Congress because of the human rights situation in Turkey and Ankara’s threatening gestures against Greece. Cavusoglu, for his part, emphasized that it was “unfair to make Sweden and Finland’s membership of NATO a condition for the F-16”. These are “two different things” and Turkey’s hands must not be tied.
Turkey already paid $1.4 billion for a US order for modern F-35 fighter jets that were never delivered. The contract was frozen by the US in 2019 after Ankara bought the Russian S-400 missile defense system. Ankara then insisted on compensation and at least demanded the delivery of older generation fighter jets (F-16).
The US Secretary of State’s first trip to Turkey since taking office two years ago was also marred by the devastating earthquake in the Syrian-Turkish border area two weeks ago. Blinken pledged $100 million in additional US aid. Along with Cavusoglu, the US Secretary of State flew over the disaster area on Sunday.
Before continuing his journey to Athens, Blinken also met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an hour-and-a-half talk at Ankara airport. Blinken pledged continued US support after the earthquake, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Blinken and Erdogan also spoke of support for Ukraine and agreed on “closer” cooperation between their countries in the areas of defence, energy and trade.
US Secretary of State Blinken promises more aid for earthquake areas: