UPDATE - Türkiye 'more hopeful than ever' about F-16 purchase from US: President Erdogan

UPDATE - Türkiye 'more hopeful than ever' about F-16 purchase from US: President Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks come at end of NATO leaders’ summit in Lithuania

UPDATES WITH MORE COMMENTS FROM TURKISH PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN

By Muhammed EnesCalli

ISTANBUL (AA) – Türkiye is "more hopeful than ever" about its F-16 purchase from the US, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

“Our expectation is that we shall reach a positive outcome. I am more hopeful than ever (about this issue),” Erdogan told a news conference at the end of the NATO summit in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.

About counterterrorism, he said a relentless fight against terrorism is indispensable for Türkiye.

"We expect a resolute and clear stance from our allies on this matter," he added.

On Quran burning in Sweden, the Turkish leader said that attacking people's sacred values is not freedom of speech, calling it "barbarism, primitiveness, and a kind of terrorist act."

Countries that voted against the resolution condemning the act of Quran burning in the UN Human Rights Council "should reconsider" their understanding of freedom and human rights, he urged.

On Tuesday, the UK, US, and some European Union member countries rejected condemning the burning of the Quran during an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva over the rising number of attacks against the Muslim holy book.

About Sweden’s NATO accession bid, Erdogan said: "Turkish Grand National Assembly is to vote on Sweden's NATO accession protocols. Our deputies will closely follow the issue."

He added: "Türkiye has always supported NATO's open-door policy. We have never prevented any country's accession to the alliance for arbitrary reasons."

Also touching on the Black Sea grain deal, which is set to expire on July 17, the Turkish leader said that Ukraine wants to extend the deal and efforts continue to address Russia's "suggestions."

"If Russia and Ukraine offer or accept mediation, Türkiye would be glad to accept it," Erdogan said.



- Fight against terrorism


Emphasizing Türkiye's commitment to defending its allies, Erdogan said Ankara has always fulfilled its responsibilities within the framework of the alliance solidarity.

However, he noted that the strained relationship that some of Türkiye's allies have, particularly with the PKK/YPG terror group in northern Syria, undermines the alliance's unity and integrity.

"There is no reasonable or logical explanation for this approach."

In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, UK, and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK's Syrian branch.

The president highlighted the importance of stepping up efforts to combat terrorism, which NATO regards as one of its two main threats.

"We are combating separatist terrorism for nearly 40 years. We have sacrificed thousands of our citizens in the bloody attacks of terrorist organizations.

"The relentless and uncompromising fight against terrorism is our red line. We now expect a resolute and clear stance from all our allies."

He said NATO will create a position of Special Counter-Terrorism Coordinator for the first time in its history.



- 'Sweden to support Türkiye's EU accession'


Regarding Sweden’s path to NATO membership, Erdogan said they have identified the steps to be taken in the coming period in a joint statement on Monday.

"Accordingly, we will enhance cooperation in counterterrorism by establishing the Bilateral Security Mechanism with Sweden at the ministerial level, in addition to the Triple Permanent Joint Mechanism."

Sweden's accession to NATO, following Finland's in April, has been one of the summit's top items for discussion.

Stoltenberg announced late Monday that Türkiye agreed to send Sweden's NATO Accession Protocol to parliament following a trilateral meeting between himself, the Turkish president, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

"Sweden will present a roadmap encompassing the implementation of the issues outlined in the Tripartite Declaration, particularly in combating all terrorist organizations."

Erdogan added that Sweden will actively support Türkiye's EU accession, the update of the Customs Union Agreement, and visa liberalization.

"Sweden will continue to fulfill its responsibilities in lifting the restrictions imposed on Türkiye, especially in the defense industry," he said.

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

Although Türkiye approved Finland's membership to NATO, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments under the deal.

Previously, Erdogan underlined that Sweden cannot hope to join NATO as long as it provides shelter and a green light for terrorists and supporters of terrorists.

In response to a question about his relationship with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Erdogan said Türkiye and Spain have significant defense industry cooperation, with a potential second aircraft carrier on the way.


- Azov Battalion commanders

In response to a question about how the release of the Azov Battalion commanders would affect relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan said: "This actually came to our attention as a result of a meeting between Russia and Ukraine."

"We hosted these commanders until Friday, and as a result of our hospitality, when this request came, we decided to approach it positively and handed over six Azov commanders to them," he said, as the president expects to meet Putin in person in August.

“We will readdress these issues there," he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Saturday that the commanders of five Azov Battalions, who were in Türkiye, have returned.

The Azov Battalion commanders, who were included in a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, were in Türkiye for security purposes.


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