| 20 March 2023, Monday |

Turkey’s NATO talks with Sweden and Finland to resume on March 9

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister of Turkey, said on Monday that discussions with Sweden and Finland about joining NATO would resume on March 9. However, he said that Sweden had still not complied with a memorandum negotiated last year.

Following the burning of a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm by a Danish far-right politician in January, Turkey canceled talks with Sweden and Finland over their applications.

“My colleagues will attend the meeting that will be held on March 9,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, adding that the meeting would be held in Brussels.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the North Atlantic defense alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine, but Sweden in particular has faced unexpected objections from Turkey.

Ankara accuses Stockholm of harboring what it considers members of terrorist groups.

Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed the memorandum on steps toward Turkish ratification at a NATO summit in Madrid in 2022.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen satisfactory steps from Sweden on the implementation of the Madrid memorandum,” Cavusoglu said. “It is not possible for us to say “yes” to Sweden’s NATO bid before we see these steps.”

The Swedish government plans to formally decide on March 9 on a long-planned proposal to make it illegal to be part of, or to endorse, a terrorist organization. Stockholm aims for the legislation to enter into force on June 1, though no date has yet been set for a parliamentary vote on the bill.

The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

While Ankara has hinted that it would accept Finland’s application, it has not made any guarantees that it will accept Sweden’s application by then.

On March 9, negotiations with Turkey will continue, according to a spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry. The negotiations will be conducted at the level of a civil servant.

The only additional NATO member who has not ratified the Nordic countries’ applications is Hungary. This week, debate in its parliament is expected to begin. The second half of March may see a vote, Budapest suggested on Saturday.

  • Reuters