Blinken calls on Turkey to immediately finalize Sweden's accession to NATO
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Turkey on Tuesday to immediately finalize Sweden's accession to NATO, saying the Nordic country had already taken significant steps to address Ankara's objections to its membership.
Blinken also rejected the suggestion that the Biden administration was linking Turkey's approval of Sweden's NATO accession to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, although he said the U.S. Congress was.
However, a day before, the US President told reporters in Washington after a conversation over the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "He still wants to work out something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted to deal with Sweden, so let's get that done."
Speaking at a joint press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister in Lulea, northern Sweden, Blinken said Washington is going to continue to work to complete Sweden's accession in time for a mid-July NATO summit.
"We believe the time is now and there's no reason for not moving forward," Blinken said. "Turkiye has raised important and legitimate concerns. Sweden and Finland both addressed those concerns."
"We look forward to this process being completed in the weeks ahead. We have no doubt that it can be, and it should be and we expect it to be," he said.
His comments came hours after Turkey called on Sweden to prosecute those responsible for projecting the flag of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) onto the parliament building in Stockholm on the day of Turkish elections that extended President Erdogan's rule.
Sweden applied, along with Finland, for NATO membership last year. Bids for membership must be approved by all NATO members, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden's bid.
Turkey ratified Finland's NATO accession in late March, but says Sweden harbors members of militant groups it considers "terrorists."
Turkey has sought to buy $20 billion worth of F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits from the United States. But the sale has been stalled due to objections from US Congress over Ankara's refusal to green light NATO enlargement, its human rights record and Syria policy. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale.