According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO shouldn’t gamble on his country willingness to second Sweden’s bid for admission into the Western military alliance, before summit in July, because the Scandinavian nation hasn’t convincingly answered to his security fears.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland jointly submitted a membership application. The Turkish parliament approved Finland’s request in April, making Helsinki the 31st member of NATO, however, Turkey has not yet approved Sweden’s application.
NATO hopes to get Sweden into the family by the time leaders gather in Lithuania’s capital on July 11-12. However, Erdogan explained that, Turkey’s viewpoint on Stockholm’s membership was not “positive.”
Erdogan’s remarks were covered by the state-run Anadolu Agency, and other media outlets, as senior NATO, Swedish, Finnish, and Turkish officials convened in Ankara today. The representatives were supposed to talk about what Sweden and Finland have accomplished to ease Turkey’s worries about the purported terrorist groups.
According to Erdogan, the Turkish team attending the summit, “will give this message: ‘This is our president’s opinion, don’t expect anything different at Vilnius,” Lithuania’s capital.
The biggest security threat, according to Ankara, is posed by militant Kurdish groups, and those connected to a 2016 coup attempt. Sweden however, has been accused of too considerate towards these group. Turkish officials were also upset by a number of different protests, that took place in Stockholm, including one in which an anti-Islam protester burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy.
Ulf Kristersson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, referred to the meeting in Ankara as “very important” while addressing the Swedish parliament. Kristersson reaffirmed that, his administration had fulfilled its obligations under a deal made last year to persuade Turkey to approve the country’s NATO membership bid.
Erdogan remained dissatisfied, though. “If you expect us to respond to Sweden’s expectations, first of all, Sweden must destroy what this terrorist organization has done,” Erdogan claimed he told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg a week ago. He was alluding to the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which carried out an insurgency against Turkey’s government.
While he was in Istanbul meeting with Stoltenberg, Erdogan claimed that, pro-Kurdish and anti-NATO protests also took place in Stockholm.
Turkey and Hungary are the only nations that have not seconded Sweden’s desire to join the alliance, and NATO expansion requires the unanimous consent of all current members. Erdogan declared that, barring “extraordinary” circumstances, he would be present at the July meeting in Lithuania.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after a meeting with the NATO chief, the US top diplomat declared that, it was “time to welcome Sweden” to the coalition, claiming Stockholm had “an important and I think very appropriate process on its accession to address appropriate concerns of other allies.”
According to Stoltenberg, “We all, of course, look forward to welcoming Sweden as a member of the alliance as soon as possible.” Since submitting its NATO membership application over a year ago, Sweden has toughened its anti-terror laws and revised its constitution.
The Swedish government also made the decision this week to send back a Turkish national living in Sweden who was found guilty of drug-related crimes in Turkey in 2013. It was not immediately obvious if the man, who hasn’t been recognized publicly, was one of the main individuals for whose repatriation Turkey has been pressing.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland submitted applications to join NATO, ending their long-standing nonalignment status.