UPDATE - Sweden's accession to NATO at discretion of Turkish parliament: President Erdogan

UPDATE - Sweden's accession to NATO at discretion of Turkish parliament: President Erdogan

Parliament to follow steps taken, make right decision in line with Türkiye's interests, says Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ADDS MORE REMARKS BY TURKISH PRESIDENT

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) — Sweden's accession to NATO is at the discretion of the Turkish parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that lawmakers would make the right decision in line with Ankara's interests.

"The authority to approve Sweden's accession protocols is the Turkish Grand National Assembly. There is a process running now.

"Our parliament will follow the steps taken and will make the right decision in line with the interests of our country," Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday on the presidential plane returning from a two-day NATO summit in Lithuania.

On Monday, ahead of the NATO summit, Erdogan agreed to forward to the Turkish parliament Sweden's bid to join NATO following a trilateral meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022.

Although Türkiye approved Finland's membership to NATO, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments not to provide shelter to terrorists and supporters of terrorists and not to greenlight their actions.

"Again, as a result of our efforts, the decision to appoint a special coordinator for combating terrorism was announced for the first time in the history of the alliance.

"Sweden's NATO membership was one of the issues highlighted in the context of the summit. Our principled stance on this issue has been clear from the very beginning. We continued our policy here as well," Erdogan said.


- Türkiye's EU membership process

Turning to Türkiye's EU membership process, Erdogan said: "There is a positive opinion about the revitalization of our EU membership process.

"We will accelerate the negotiations for updating the Customs Union, which will have a multiplier effect on the Turkish economy. I believe that we will make progress in visa liberalization as well."

Türkiye applied for EU membership in 1987 and has been a candidate country since 1999.

Negotiations for full membership started in October 2005 but have stalled in recent years due to political hurdles erected by some countries.

Erdogan said his chief adviser Akif Cagatay Kilic went to Brussels to discuss the issues, adding: "He will discuss both the Customs Union and visa liberalization issues. I believe these will be in favor of Türkiye."

During a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Vilnius, Erdogan said she also conveyed "some positive" messages on the issue.

"I think my adviser, Cagatay, will return from there with positive developments," he said, noting that at the Vilnius summit, a decision had been made for EU foreign policy Josep Borrell and the European Commission to prepare a report on the bloc's relations with Türkiye.

"I expect the report to be prepared in a positive and forward-looking manner," added Erdogan.

Türkiye always keeps its promises, Erdogan said, adding that Ankara wants to see the "tangible results" of talks with the EU carried out on a win-win basis as soon as possible.

He pointed to "concrete steps" on promises made at the summit, which included the "termination of activities of terrorist organizations" and the extradition of terrorists.

"As a result of the positive works we will see from the EU, we start working to bring our promises to life," he added.


- Purchase of US fighter jets

Erdogan also said he expected NATO allies to lift sanctions and restrictions on its defense industry.

Turning to Ankara's bid to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the US, Erdogan said he had a "very fruitful" discussion with President Joe Biden on the summit's margins.

"Biden and his administration actually adopted an attitude in favor of our country regarding the sale of F-16s. At the moment, both he and Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) said: 'We are on this issue, we are following it.'," he added.

Erdogan said Turkish ministers would hold further talks with the US on the sale of F-16 fighter jets.

Ankara requested F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits in October 2021. The $6-billion deal would include the sale of 40 jets as well as modernization kits for 79 warplanes already in the Turkish Air Force’s inventory. The State Department has informally notified Congress of the potential sale.

However, key lawmakers at Capitol Hill have vowed to nix the deal over several demands, including making the purchase contingent on Ankara's approval of Sweden's NATO membership bid.

Ankara maintains that the jets would strengthen not only Türkiye but also NATO.

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