Senior officials meet in Turkey to discuss Sweden's NATO membership bid

AP , Wednesday 14 Jun 2023

Senior officials from NATO, Sweden, Finland and Turkey met in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish media reports said, as the alliance pushes Turkey to ratify Sweden’s application to join the military bloc.

Activists of the Alliance against NATO network carry flags with the logo of Kurdistan Workers Party PKK, that is designated as a terrorist organization among others by Turkey, during a demonstration for freedom of speech and association, in support of democratic forces in Turkey and against Swedish NATO membership, on June 4, 2023 in Stockholm, Sweden. AFP


Sweden and Finland applied for membership together following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. Finland became NATO's 31st member in April after the Turkish parliament ratified its request, but Turkey has held off approving Sweden’s bid.

Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient toward terror organizations that Ankara says pose a security threat, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.

A series of separate demonstrations in Stockholm, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy, also angered Turkish officials.

The officials meeting Wednesday were scheduled to discuss the steps Finland and Sweden have taken as part of a memorandum they signed with Turkey last year to address Ankara’s security concerns. The meeting was taking place at Turkey's presidential palace, HaberTurk television reported.

NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time NATO leaders hold a summit meeting in Lithuania on July 11-12.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a Tuesday meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that it was “time to welcome Sweden” into the alliance. The government in Stockholm had “an important and I think very appropriate process on its accession to address appropriate concerns of other allies,” he added.

Stoltenberg said: “We all, of course, look forward to welcoming Sweden as a member of the alliance as soon as possible.”

Sweden has amended its constitution and strengthened its anti-terror laws since it applied to join NATO in May 2022. The Swedish government this week also agreed to extradite a Turkish citizen who was convicted on drug charges in Turkey in 2013.

It was not immediately clear if the man, who lived in Sweden and has not been identified publicly, was among the people Turkey wanted extradited.

Sweden and Finland applied to become NATO members in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignment.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of all existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have not yet ratified Sweden’s application.

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