NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the annual Society and Defence Conference in Salen, Sweden, on Jan. 8, 2023. Stoltenberg said Monday Jan. 9, 2023 that Sweden has done what was needed for the Scandinavian country to get Turkish approval to join the 30-member alliance. AP
"I have said that time has come to bring to an end the ratification process for Sweden,'' Jens Stoltenberg told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in an interview.
In May, Sweden and neighboring Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The move requires the unanimous approval of the alliance members. Türkiye's has held up the process while pressing the two Nordic countries to crack down on groups it considers to be terrorist organizations and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes.
Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden was not even "halfway'' through fulfilling the commitments it made to secure Ankara's support
. His remarks came after a Swedish court ruled against extraditing a man wanted by Türkiye for alleged links to a 2016 failed coup.
Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said that Sweden has lived up to its commitments and that the decision now "lies with Türkiye.''
"We have a very good process together with Finland and Türkiye and are doing exactly what we said, which Türkiye is now confirming,''
Kristersson said on Sunday, the first day of the three-day People and Defense conference in Salen, a ski resort in central Sweden. The event was attended by Stoltenberg and Swedish foreign policy and security experts.
"Legislation banning participation in terrorist organizations is being implemented, and Türkiye is known to name individuals it wants extradited. It is also known that Sweden has legislation that is clear and means that it is up to the courts. We also do not extradite Swedish citizens to any country.''
There was no immediate reaction from Türkiye to the comments by Stoltenberg and Kristersson.
The parliaments of 28 NATO countries have already ratified Sweden and Finland's membership. Türkiye and Hungary are the only members that haven't yet given their approval.
Under the memorandum, the two countries agreed to address Türkiye's security concerns, including requests for the deportation and extradition of Kurdish militants and people linked to a network run by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The Turkish government accuses Gulen of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt, which he denies.
However, Sweden's top court has refused to extradite journalist Bulent Kenes, whom Türkiye accuses of being among the coup plotters.
Kenes, who received asylum in Sweden, was the editor of the English-language Today's Zaman newspaper which was owned by the Gulen network and was closed down as part of Ankara's crackdown on the group.