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Turkey says Canada, US linking drone-camera exports to Sweden NATO membership

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Canada and the United States were insisting that Ankara ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid before Canada resumes the export of drone cameras to Turkey, the text of an interview with media showed on Friday.

Speaking with reporters on a flight from Athens late on Thursday, Erdogan said the United States agreed with Canada on the issue, but that Sweden’s NATO bid was to be decided by Turkey’s parliament, after he sent the bill there for consideration in late October.

When Erdogan signalled at a NATO conference in July that Sweden would eventually get the green light, NATO member Canada quietly agreed to re-open talks with Turkey on lifting export controls on drone parts, including optical equipment, Reuters reported.

“On the issue of drone cameras we wanted from them, Canada is insisting: Sweden, Sweden. The U.S. is repeating the same thing,” Erdogan said.

Turkey, a NATO member, asked in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and 79 modernisation kits for its existing warplanes.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration backs the $20-billion sale, but there have been objections in the U.S. Congress over Turkey’s delaying of NATO enlargement to bring in Sweden, and over its human rights record.

“If you have your Congress, I have my parliament. You say you will take a step in the F-16 issue after passing through Congress. I also have a parliament,” Erdogan said.

“If we are two NATO allies, then do what you have to simultaneously, in solidarity, and our parliament will take the necessary decision.”

The Canadian embassy did not immediately comment on the matter.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Daren Butler and Kim Coghill)

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