Stoltenberg: Erdogan gives up blockade of Sweden joining NATO


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Status: 07/10/2023 11:06 p.m

After months of resistance, Turkish President Erdogan clears the way for Sweden to join NATO. Erdogan intends to present the accession protocol to parliament soon, Secretary General Stoltenberg said after mediation talks.

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkey is ready to give up its blockade on Sweden joining the alliance. At a meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to submit the accession protocol to parliament as soon as possible, Stoltenberg said. He, Erdogan and Kristersson had previously held mediation talks on the eve of the NATO summit in Lithuania.

“Sweden will become a full member of the alliance,” declared Stoltenberg. However, he dodged the question of when the country’s accession could be completed. He only reiterated that there was a clear commitment to forward the ratification documents to Parliament. In return, Sweden is said to have concluded a “security pact” with Turkey and promised a “continued fight against terrorism”.

Dispute over dealing with PKK

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022 under the impression of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. At the beginning of April, Finland became the 31st member of the alliance. Sweden, on the other hand, still lacks the approval of Turkey and Hungary, which was primarily due to Turkey’s blockade attitude. Hungary recently reaffirmed that it would not stand in the way of Sweden’s admission should Turkey give the green light.

The Turkish leadership has been blocking Sweden’s accession for over a year. She points out that the Scandinavian country is not taking sufficient action against “terrorist organizations” – she is primarily concerned with the banned Kurdish workers’ party PKK. The fact that at the end of June, for the first time in months, a Koran was set on fire at a demonstration in Stockholm, recently put additional strain on relations with Ankara.

Erdogan with a new demand

Before his departure for Vilnius, Erdogan surprisingly made a new demand and made the resumption of EU accession talks a condition for his approval. “Come and open the way for Turkey’s membership of the European Union. If you open the way for Turkey, we will open the way for Sweden as we did for Finland,” the Turkish leader said.

According to diplomats, Erdogan’s meeting with Kristersson and Stoltenberg had been interrupted for consultations with EU Council President Charles Michel. Michel wrote on Twitter after the meeting that the EU and Turkey wanted to “get their relations going again”. He had a “good meeting” with Erdogan.

“A good day for Sweden”

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and US President Joe Biden welcomed the Turkish President’s decision. “Good news from Vilnius: The way is finally clear for Turkey to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership,” Baerbock wrote on Twitter. “Our joint efforts have paid off. At 32, we are all safer together. Congratulations, Sweden!”

US President Joe Biden said he “stands ready to work with President Erdogan and Turkey to strengthen defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic region. I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Kristersson and Sweden as our 32nd NATO ally. And I thank Secretary General Stoltenberg for his steadfast leadership.”

Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said at a press conference: “It’s been a good day for Sweden.” He was very happy that Erdogan, Stoltenberg and he were able to agree on a joint declaration, with which a very big step was taken towards the formal ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession.

Next steps soon?

For a long time, the goal in Stockholm was to resolve the Turkish blockade by the Vilnius summit. It is still unclear when exactly Erdogan’s positive signal will come. The next session of Turkey’s parliament is scheduled for Tuesday, which means it could, at least in theory, give its approval while the two-day summit in Vilnius is underway. If the Hungarian parliament then also ratifies quickly, Sweden could soon officially become the 32nd member of NATO.

The heads of state and government of the NATO countries meet for a summit in Vilnius on Tuesday. The main focus is on stronger support for Ukraine. Its President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has been invited to the two-day meeting.

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