Türkiye presses for EU membership to ratify Sweden's NATO bid

Mon, 10 Jul 2023 21:14 GMT
'First, let's pave way for Türkiye in EU, then we will pave way for Sweden just as we did for Finland,'
Türkiye presses for EU membership to ratify Sweden's NATO bid

Turkish President Erdogan on Monday said he will urge the NATO summit to open a path for Ankara's EU membership so Türkiye paves the way for Sweden's NATO membership.

"Almost all of the NATO member countries are now members of the EU. I am calling out to these countries that have kept Türkiye waiting at the door of the EU for more than 50 years, but I will also call out to Vilnius.

"First, let's pave the way for Türkiye in the EU, and then we will pave the way for Sweden just as we did for Finland," Erdogan said at a news conference in Istanbul before heading to Lithuania's capital Vilnius to attend a NATO summit.

Erdogan said he will express these views and make the demands while meeting with leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

Later on Monday, Erdogan said he will have a trilateral meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, adding: "As for Sweden, the process continues. Our relevant institutions maintain their contacts with their Swedish counterparts with a transparent and well-intentioned manner."

However, the president also reiterated that Sweden's NATO membership is contingent on the fulfillment of issues outlined in a tripartite agreement signed last year in Madrid during a NATO summit.

"As Türkiye, we are tired of repeating that we need to fight terrorist organizations and their extensions indiscriminately," he added.

In a situation where Turkish soldiers, police officers, and civilians citizens have been martyred by the terror groups, no one should expect Ankara to show concessions and understanding, Erdogan added.

Stockholm's accession to NATO is also at the discretion of the Turkish parliament, he stressed.

During the two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, the leaders will address ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, its challenges to NATO, and steps to strengthen the military alliance's defense and deterrence. Sweden's bid to join NATO bid will be also on the agenda.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership soon after Russia launched 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 gives shelter and a green light for terrorists and supporters of terrorists.

To join NATO, Sweden needs the approval of all of its current members, including Türkiye, which has been in the alliance for over 70 years and boasts its second-largest army.

'Sweden's NATO bid, Ankara's F-16 purchase from US not linked'

Erdogan also said Sweden's NATO bid and Türkiye's F-16 purchase from the US are not linked to each other.

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.

"While we continue to fight against terrorism, especially Daesh, in the world, we brought the Finland issue to our parliament, since Finland is not involved in terrorism in this regard. At this point, our parliament paved the way for its membership. And we're done. But the F-16 issue is not like that," the president said.

He added that he will hold further talks with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the summit, saying: "With this meeting, I hope that we will overcome this problem. It also saddens us that this is associated with Sweden. This is something different. We will reiterate this to them."

During the summit, Erdogan said the leaders will review the decisions made at the Madrid Summit to support the partners, especially Ukraine, and to strengthen the deterrence and defense structure of the alliance.

"We believe that ending the war with a fair and lasting peace as soon as possible will further facilitate Ukraine's NATO membership process," he added.

He also said he will reiterate Ankara's call to the allies who have imposed sanctions and restrictions on Türkiye to swiftly reverse the mistake.

"The restrictions and obstructions that some of our allies have unfairly imposed on our country are limiting us. Our country, which saw almost 2% in 2019 defense expenditures, has now decreased to 1.30%," he added.

Black Sea grain deal

Regarding the last year’s landmark Black Sea grain deal, which is set to expire on July 17, Erdogan said Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Türkiye next month.

"If Putin's visit to Türkiye takes place, of course, we will discuss it 100%, and we will discuss this issue in face-to-face meetings. Ukraine said: 'We are ready to do our part.'," he said, adding in the upcoming meeting with Putin he does not expect anything different.

Last June, Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports which had been paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022.

A Joint Coordination Center with officials from the three countries and the UN was set up in Istanbul to oversee the shipments.

More than 33 million tons of grain have been transported to people in need, according to Turkish officials.

Russian officials have strongly hinted that Moscow could block the extension of the deal this month, complaining that parts of it to allow Russian exports have gone unfulfilled.

Türkiye, internationally praised for its unique mediator role between Ukraine and Russia, has repeatedly urged Kyiv and Moscow to end the war through talks.

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