Wed, 29 Nov 2023

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has called on Ankara to drop its opposition to Sweden's bid to join the US-led defence alliance, hoping Stockholm's accession would be finalised "as soon as possible".

Turkey, Sweden and Finland will meet later this month in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to try to overcome objections that have delayed Sweden's NATO membership bid, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday after meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

In March, Turkey ratified Finland's bid for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but still objects to Sweden joining the alliance, as does Hungary.

Erdogan has accused Sweden of being a haven for "terrorists", especially members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group blacklisted by Turkey and its Western allies.

Significant steps

"Sweden has taken significant concrete steps to meet Turkey's concerns," Stoltenberg told reporters, referring to a constitutional change by Sweden and its stepping up of counter-terrorism cooperation with Ankara.

"Sweden has fulfilled its obligations," he said.

Stoltenberg's talks in Istanbul with Erdogan took place a week after Erdogan extended his two-decade rule, winning a fifth term in office.

The election coincided with protests in Stockholm, against both Erdogan and NATO, in which the flag of the PKK, outlawed in Turkey, was projected on to the parliament building.

Sweden and Finland dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Finland formally joined NATO in April, doubling the alliance's border with Russia.

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Asked about Sweden's chances of becoming a NATO member before the mid-July NATO summit in Vilnius, Stoltenberg said there was time.

He said the next round of talks between officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey would be in the week of 12 June, but did not specify when. NATO defence ministers will meet in Brussels on 15-16 June.

(with newswires)

Originally published on RFI

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