| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Turkey won’t back Swedish NATO bid unless it stops anti-Turkish protests, Erdogan says

According to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Sweden should not expect Ankara to approve its NATO membership application at the Western alliance’s meeting next month unless it avoids anti-Turkey riots in Stockholm.

Turkey cannot approach Sweden’s NATO bid favorably while “terrorists” demonstrate in Stockholm, and Turkey’s position will be made plain once more in discussions with Swedish officials in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan said on a trip back from Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

Erdogan spoke as officials from Turkey, Sweden, Finland and NATO met on Wednesday in Ankara for talks to try to overcome Turkish objections holding up Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

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.

“It’s my job to persuade our counterpart that we have done enough. I think we have,” Stenstrom said. “But Turkey is not ready to make a decision yet and thinks that they need to have more answers to the questions they have.”

In a statement, the Turkish presidency said the level of progress by Sweden under a trilateral deal agreed in Madrid last year was discussed in the meeting. The parties agreed to continue working on the “prospective concrete steps” for Sweden’s NATO membership, the statement said.

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

In justifying its objections to Swedish membership, Turkey has accused Stockholm of harbouring members of Kurdish militant groups it considers to be terrorists.

Sweden says it has upheld its part of a deal struck with Turkey in Madrid 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.

Turkish-Swedish tensions were most recently fuelled by an anti-Turkey and anti-NATO protest in Stockholm last month, when the flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, outlawed in Turkey as well as in the European Union, was projected on to the parliament building.

Commenting on Sweden’s recent legal changes Erdogan said:

“This is not only a matter of a law amendment or a constitutional change. What is the job of the police there? They have legal and constitutional rights, they should exercise their rights. The police should prevent these (protests).”

While he was having talks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg earlier this month, a similar protest was held in Stockholm, Erdogan said. He added that he also told Stoltenberg Sweden should prevent such actions to secure Turkey’s approval for its NATO membership.

After meeting Erdogan, Stoltenberg said a deal on Sweden joining the alliance could be reached before the NATO summit in Vilnius next month.

  • Reuters