Before departing Atatürk Airport for the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Turkish President Erdogan held a press conference and further clarified his positions on several significant issues.
Firstly he said that his ability or willingness to approve Sweden’s membership in NATO largely depends on a tripartite agreement and meeting between him, NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg, and Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson which is scheduled some time in Vilnius this week. He also said that the European Union must clear the way for Turkey’s accession before Sweden can be admitted to NATO:
“No one should expect concessions and understanding from us. We will meet with Stoltenberg and the Swedish Prime Minister in the evening.” used his statements. Calling on NATO leaders regarding Turkey’s membership to the European Union (EU), Erdogan said, “First, clear the way for Turkey.”
Since 2016, accession negotiations have stalled. The EU has accused and criticized Turkey for human rights violations and deficits in rule of law. In 2017, EU officials said that the strong presidency created by the 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum would violate the Copenhagen criteria of eligibility for an EU membership.
He also said Turkey will have “the last word” on Sweden’s accession, signaling Hungary, who has still not voted, will decide before Turkey.
With regards to Ukraine, Erdogan told press that ending the war was a prerequisite to any membership vote, reaffirming German concerns that Ukraine does not meet membership criteria.
Finally, Erdogan commented on the acquisition of U.S. F-16s. He told press that the issue was unrelated to Sweden’s accession, but did slide in a sarcastic comment. He said: “They always tell us ‘We have a Congress’”, referring to U.S. Congressional opposition to the sale. But added that “Well we have a parliament”, in a not so subtle reference to Sweden’s accession in that the Turkish Parliament must approve the measure.
All in all, Turkey will be a major player during this summit over the next two days.