OSLO, Norway — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the “time is now” for Turkey to drop its objections to Sweden joining NATO but said the Biden administration also believed that Turkey should be provided with upgraded F-16 fighters “as soon as possible.”
Blinken maintained that the administration had not linked the two issues but acknowledged that some U.S. lawmakers had. President Joe Biden implicitly linked the two issues in a phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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.
Still, Blinken insisted the two issues were distinct. However, he stressed that the completion of both would dramatically strengthen European security.
“Both of these are vital, in our judgment, to European security,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference in the northern Swedish city of Lulea with Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. “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. He declined to predict when Turkey and Hungary, the only other NATO member not yet to have ratified Sweden’s membership, would grant their approval.
But, he said, “we have no doubt that it can be, it should be, and we expect it to be” completed by the time alliance leaders meet in Vilnius, Lithuania in July.