During a trip to Turkey on Tuesday to ask President Tayyip Erdogan for his blessing on his nation’s application to join NATO, Sweden’s new prime leader pledged a firmer stance against crime and terrorism.
In May, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland submitted applications to join NATO. However, NATO member Turkey objected, citing security issues with the PKK and other banned organizations as well as the Nordic countries’ restriction on arms exports.
The three countries signed a memorandum in June that lifted Turkey’s veto while requiring Sweden and Finland to address its remaining concerns.
“I think the new government will have an even firmer approach in (relation to) the NATO application from Sweden,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters in Ankara during a visit to the Turkish parliament.
“One of this government’s main priorities is fighting crime, fighting organized crime, fighting the connection between organized crime and terrorism,” he said.
Erdogan, who has previously accused Sweden of harboring PKK militants, was set to host Kristersson at the presidential palace later on Tuesday, with a news conference scheduled for 1530 GMT.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Saturday his country’s new government would distance itself from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in its bid to win Turkey’s support for its membership of the Western defence alliance.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Sweden, along with the United States and several other NATO countries, has supported the YPG in its fight against Islamic State. Turkey has vowed to block Sweden’s application if it doesn’t stop.
The application has been approved by 28 of NATO’s 30 countries. The Nordic countries said this week they were optimistic that Hungary would also drop its objections.
“Sweden wants to join NATO to enhance our own security, but Sweden also wants to be a security provider for others,” Kristersson said.
“Turkey has very legitimate demands on every new NATO member to be a true security provider also for the other allies.”
In a letter sent a month ago and seen by Reuters, Stockholm told Ankara it had taken “concrete action” to address Turkey’s concerns, including stepping up counter-terrorism efforts against Kurdish militants.