Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will accept Sweden's NATO accession if the United States keeps its promise of selling F-16 fighter jets.
Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has blamed Sweden for providing sanctuary to elements linked to the so-called Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) armed group, as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.
Both PKK and Gulen movement have been designated as terrorist groups by Ankara.
Back in July, Erdogan even said that Brussels should facilitate his country's accession to the European Union (EU) before Ankara moves to approve Sweden's bid to join NATO.
Last week, the Turkish leader announced that the Turkish parliament was not prepared to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid as Stockholm had not gone far enough to secure its place in the US-led military alliance.
Sweden needs Ankara’s consent to join NATO.
The Nordic nation, which has already dropped a longtime policy of military non-alignment following Russia's war in Ukraine, now desperately needs consent from Turkey to join NATO, to which its neighbor, Finland, was finally added in April.
On Tuesday, Erdogan said that the Turkish parliament would ratify Sweden's NATO membership if Washington permitted the sale of its F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.
“If they (the US) keep their promises, our parliament will keep its own promise as well. Turkish parliament will have the final say on Sweden's NATO membership,” the Turkish president was quoted by the semi-official Anadolu Agency as saying.
Erdogan stressed that the US administration is linking F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey with Ankara's ratification of Sweden's bid.
Washington kicked out Ankara of the F-35 stealth fighter jet program after it purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense systems despite facing opposition from the US and NATO.
Now, Turkey is striving to boost its air force with more US-made F-16 warplanes, but its request has been pending for months with the White House and US Congress.
Back in May, Sweden passed an anti-terrorism law that criminalizes membership in terrorist organizations in the country. Two months later, Turkey, Sweden, and NATO struck a joint statement that said Stockholm had changed its anti-terrorist laws, expanded counter-terrorism cooperation against Kurdish opposition groups, and restarted arms exports to Turkey.