Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Sweden should not expect to join NATO any time soon, as the Nordic nation has not fully addressed his security concerns. Erdogan made the remarks on Wednesday, ahead of a trilateral meeting with Swedish and Finnish officials in Ankara to discuss Sweden’s NATO bid.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership together after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, marking a dramatic pivot after decades of military neutrality. Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April, but Turkey has held off on approving Sweden’s bid.
Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has the power to veto any new members joining the alliance. Turkey has accused Sweden of harbouring members of Kurdish militant groups it considers to be terrorists, as well as people linked to a failed coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016.
Erdogan also expressed his anger over anti-Turkey and anti-NATO protests in Stockholm last month, when the flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was projected on to the parliament building. He said Turkey cannot approach Sweden’s NATO bid positively while “terrorists” were protesting in Stockholm.
Sweden says it has upheld its part of a deal struck with Turkey in Madrid last year, aimed at addressing Ankara’s security concerns, including bringing in a new anti-terrorism law this month. It says it follows national and international law on extraditions.
Sweden’s chief negotiator Oscar Stenstrom said the talks with Turkish officials had been good and that discussions aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections would continue, though no fresh date was yet set. He said he hoped Turkey would ratify Sweden’s membership before the NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, on July 11-12.
NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by then, as the alliance seeks to strengthen its presence and deterrence in the Baltic region amid rising tensions with Russia.