Turkey was, along with Hungary, one of two NATO members withholding approval of Sweden’s entry into the alliance. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had undertaken intense diplomacy since last year, including meeting with Mr. Erdogan in Istanbul this month, to try to change the Turkish leader’s mind.
Mr. Blinken discussed the issue with Mr. Erdogan in a visit to Turkey in February 2023, and said three times that Turkey would not get the F-16s if it refused to approve Sweden’s accession, a U.S. official said.
The drawn-out process with Turkey has also delayed the sale of F-35 jets to Greece, which became linked to the F-16s in diplomatic talks because Turkey and Greece are longtime rivals, despite both being members of NATO. The State Department also formally told Congress on Friday night it was going ahead with that sale.
Both Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and almost all of the alliance’s members quickly agreed. Finland joined the alliance in April, but Sweden’s application languished. While Hungary did not raise specific objections, Turkish officials blamed Sweden for harboring Kurds whom Turkey officials said were terrorists.
The Turkish Parliament voted on Tuesday to allow Sweden to join NATO, and Mr. Erdogan signed that measure into law on Thursday.