Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said Turkey is asking too much in return for ending its obstruction of NATO membership for Sweden and neighboring Finland, speaking at a security conference in attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“Turkey has confirmed that we did what we said we would do. But they also say they want things that we can’t, that we don’t want to give,” Prime Minister Kristersson said, adding “We are convinced that Turkey will make a decision, we just don’t know when.”
The Swede said that decision will depend on his country’s ability “to show its seriousness”, as well as political factors internal to Turkey during an election year.
Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, reversed a long-established policy of military non-alignment by applying to join the NATO alliance last May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. in February.
Turkey, an important NATO ally, used the situation to take advantage of concessions from Western partners. Joining NATO requires the unanimous support of all 30 members.
Why did Turkey block Sweden’s NATO membership?
At the Folk och Foersvar (Society and Defence) security conference in Saelen, Sweden, on Sunday, NATO chief Stoltenberg said that in an increasingly hostile world “it is even more important that Sweden and Finland become members of NATO”.
Stoltenberg, a Norwegian, warned that underestimating Russia risks “major consequences for security in the Nordic region”.
Despite this urgency, Turkey has for months unilaterally blocked membership in a bid to force Finland, but especially Sweden, to join its fight against Kurdish militants and those whom Ankara calls enemies of the State.
Turkey has had strained relations with Russia and the West for years and has recently positioned itself as a broker in scenarios related to the war in Ukraine, such as seeking to facilitate grain shipments from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean along the Bosphorus.
What does Turkey want from Sweden?
In June, Finland, Sweden and Turkey signed a tripartite agreement to address Ankara’s concerns over what it called “harbouring of militants” and people linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) , that Ankara, the United States and the EU have designated a terrorist organization.
Although Ankara in December announced its satisfaction with Sweden’s response to its security concerns, the Erdogan government has continued to press for more concessions before backing membership.
A key demand from the start has been Ankara’s insistence that a number of individuals it says have links to a failed 2016 coup be extradited to Turkey for trial.
Thousands of individuals accused of acting against the Erdogan government have since been imprisoned.
In late December, Ankara expressed displeasure when Sweden’s Supreme Court blocked the extradition of a journalist it accuses of having links to exiled Islamist cleric Fettulah Gulen, whom Erdogan sees behind the coup plot of state.
Nonetheless, Stoltenberg said on Sunday he was confident he would soon be able to warmly welcome Sweden and Finland to the alliance.
Stoltenberg did not offer an exact date but suggested that membership would be extended this year, saying, “Now is the time to close the membership process and ratify the membership protocol.”
js/aw (AFP, Reuters)