US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that the “time is now” for Turkey to drop its objections to Sweden joining NATO.
Sweden and neighbouring Finland sought NATO membership after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. While Finland has since joined the military alliance, Sweden’s accession is still pending – with Hungary and Turkey having yet to ratify Stockholm’s membership.
“From the perspective of the United States, the time is now to finalise Sweden’s accession,” Blinken said. “Again, it’s taken very significant steps to address very legitimate concerns and I think in terms of its own qualifications for membership from day one, it was qualified.”
The Biden administration has also said that Ankara should be provided with upgraded F-16 fighters “as soon as possible.” And while Blinken maintained that the administration had not linked the two issues, he also acknowledged that some US lawmakers had.
US President Joe Biden implicitly linked the two issues in a phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday.
“I spoke to Erdogan and he still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden. So let’s get that done,” Biden said.
But Blinken has insisted the two issues were distinct and stressed that the completion of both would dramatically strengthen European security.
“Both of these are vital, in our judgement, to European security,” Blinken said. “We believe that both should go forward as quickly as possible; that is to say Sweden’s accession and moving forward on the F-16 package more broadly.”
“We believe the time is now,” Blinken said.
Turkey has accused Sweden of being too soft on groups Ankara considers to be terrorists, and a series of Quran-burning protests in Stockholm angered his religious support base.