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Sweden-Nato: Erdogan says Turkey's parliament isn’t ready to ratify the bid

The Turkish president has become increasingly frustrated by the slow progress on his F-16 package in Washington and Sweden’s crackdown on 'terrorism'
Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit in New York on 18 September 2023
Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit in New York on 18 September 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey’s parliament isn’t ready to ratify Sweden’s Nato accession protocol, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a closed-door briefing with analysts and journalists in New York on Monday, sources told Middle East Eye. 

The Turkish president said “terrorists” were demonstrating in the streets of Stockholm despite Sweden’s recent amendments of its constitution and laws to better fight terrorism. 

“My parliament doesn’t view this issue positively, they aren’t ready to ratify Sweden’s accession protocol,” Erdogan said according to the two sources who were present at the meeting. 

The Turkish parliament is currently in recess and will convene at the beginning of October. Erdogan has yet to submit the protocol to parliament. 

In July Turkey and Sweden struck a joint statement that said Ankara would ratify Stockholm’s bid, which was submitted alongside Finland after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Erdogan at the time said that the parliament would convene in autumn and handle the legislation. 

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However, since then Erdogan had been slowly walking back from his “speedy ratification” promise, citing the US failure to act on Ankara’s F-16 request. 

Turkish officials still say Turkey will ratify the protocol, but intimate it could be delayed. Some point out that Sweden should also submit a roadmap as agreed in July to indicate how it will fight terrorism in the long term. 

Middle East Eye previously reported that Erdogan was convinced to back Sweden's bid with a package of proposals offered by Washington that included US Congress approving a deal selling billions of dollars' worth of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as Canada dropping its arms embargo against Ankara. 

However, multiple Turkish officials, as well as sources who closely follow the Sweden-Nato issue, said there is a problem of distrust in Ankara. 

“We have to buy F-16s because the US ejected us from the F-35 project over our purchase of Russian S-400 systems,” a Turkish source with knowledge of the issue said. “And now they use F-16s as a bargaining chip. But we have a long list of incidents in the past where the White House couldn’t uphold its promises.” 

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When speaking of distrust over US positions, multiple Turkish officials refer to President Joe Biden’s track record, such as his promises on Syria while he was the vice president in 2016. Biden pledged to Erdogan that Kurdish groups wouldn’t be able to cross to the west of the Euphrates river in Syria, but eventually they did. 

“Now we have to uphold our pledge, blindly waiting for the US Congress to approve this deal, without seeing any progress,” said a second source.

“This makes us vulnerable. Biden has to show that he is serious on this package by politically putting himself on the line.” 

Erdogan was visibly upset earlier this month after Biden reportedly approached him at the G20 meeting and asked about Sweden’s ratification. 

“Unfortunately our friends tie the F-16 package to Sweden,” Erdogan said at the G20 summit.

“Now, this approach seriously upsets us. You say everything goes through the US Congress. I also have a congress: the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. It is not possible for me to say 'yes' unless such a decision is passed by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey."

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