Turkey’s Erdogan links Canada’s drone embargo to Sweden NATO bid


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted on Tuesday as saying that positive developments on the U.S. sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, and on Canada’s arms embargo, would help Turkey’s parliament move toward ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

After long-time non-alignment, Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey has delayed ratification of Sweden’s membership for more than a year. Ankara accuses the country of not taking Turkey’s security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats.

The delays have frustrated other NATO allies, who were swift to accept Sweden and Finland into the alliance after the neighbouring countries dropped their longstanding military neutrality following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Turkey endorsed Finland’s membership bid in April but, along with Hungary, it has kept Sweden waiting.

“Positive developments we expect both on [procuring U.S.] F-16s and Canada’s promises [on lifting its arms embargo] would help our parliament to have a positive approach on Sweden… All of them are linked,” Erdogan told reporters on a flight returning from Hungary, according to a text shared by his office.

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Canada quietly agreed to reopen talks with its NATO ally Turkey on lifting export controls on drone parts, including optical equipment, after Erdogan signalled in July that Sweden would get the green light from Ankara, Reuters reported.

Canada suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey in 2020 after concluding the equipment had been used by Azerbaijan’s forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where fighting again erupted this year.

Turkey asked in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration backs the $20 billion US sale, but there have been objections in the U.S. Congress over Turkey delaying Sweden’s entry into NATO and over its human rights record.

Erdogan said that he discussed the issue of Sweden’s NATO accession with Biden in a call last week.

“In the call, Mr. Biden said: ‘You pass this [Sweden’s NATO bid] from the parliament and I will get it [the F-16 sale] passed from the Congress’,” Erdogan said.

Ukraine years away from EU membership: Erdogan

Meanwhile, Erdogan predicted that the European Union would stall Ukraine and Moldova’s accession to the European Union, according to comments from his office.

EU leaders agreed last week to open talks with Ukraine even as it continues to fight Russia’s invasion, while also starting talks with Moldova.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the move as a “victory” for Ukraine and the European continent, although the bloc could not agree on a 50 billion euro package of financial aid for Kyiv due to opposition from Hungary.

Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey, which has been an EU candidate since 2005, had long earned the right to join the bloc but had been stalled over what he called political obstacles.

“Giving them candidate status does not mean they will become EU members. A process will start with them, they will be stalled, too. None of these countries are a Turkey,” Erdogan was cited as saying by his office.

“It is wrong for Turkey, which is more ready to join the EU than some member states, to be kept waiting at the door for years due to political obstacles,” he added.

Turkey’s bid to join the EU has been frozen for years due to EU concerns over Turkey’s record on human rights and differences over regional policies, namely in the eastern Mediterranean and over the ethnically-split island of Cyprus.

The bloc depends on Turkey’s help, particularly on migration.