Türkiye tells US to uphold F-16 promises as Sweden edges closer to joining NATO


Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told his U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, in a call on Dec. 27 that Türkiye expects the United States to keep its promises on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.

The phone call came after the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission voted to ratify Sweden’s bid for NATO membership a day earlier. However, the final ratification hinges on approval from the parliament’s general assembly.

“Fidan stated that, regarding the sale of F-16s, we expect the U.S. administration and U.S. Congress to act in line with the spirit of alliance and keep the promises made,” said diplomatic sources.

The commission’s approval of Sweden’s bid occurred during a session chaired by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Fuat Oktay. While AKP, its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) members voted in favor, İYİ (Good) Party members opposed, and Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) members abstained. A timetable for the issue’s presentation to the general assembly remains unannounced.

Both Sweden and Finland sought NATO membership last May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Türkiye, citing concerns about ties to terrorist organizations and failure to extradite members of such groups, initially objected to both nations’ bids. Finland, “having met obligations” outlined in the trilateral memorandum at the NATO summit in Madrid, secured approval from Ankara. However, Sweden faced prolonged objections until July, when Türkiye lifted its veto.

The commission’s approval followed a previous phone call between Fidan and Blinken on Dec. 17 highlighting the “importance of ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession as soon as possible,” according to a readout from the White House.

Türkiye has consistently urged Sweden to take stronger measures against terrorist groups, particularly the PKK and FETÖ – the group behind the failed 2016 coup. Despite legislative changes in Sweden’s anti-terror laws, Ankara demands concrete and practical steps against terrorism.

The situation is further complicated by Türkiye’s ongoing requests to purchase 40 new fighter jets and 79 modernization kits from the U.S., which pend congressional approval, with Washington conditioning the sale on Sweden’s NATO admission.

Ankara’s pursuit of new fighter jets followed its expulsion from the F-35 program due to the deployment of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

Meanwhile in response to these challenges, Türkiye has identified Eurofighter jets as an alternative, with Defense Minister Yaşar Güler consistently expressing that Ankara sees the advanced jets as the preferred option, citing its effectiveness.

However, Germany, a key producer of the Eurofighter, has yet to give its approval, with reports suggesting concerns over Türkiye’s natural gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean may be a factor.__Daily Hurriyet