Erdogan plays down hopes of Sweden joining NATO in July

ANKARA (AFP): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday rebuffed growing international pressure on Ankara to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid before the Western defense alliance meets in July.

“Sweden has expectations. It doesn’t mean that we will comply with them,” Erdogan said in remarks released by his office.

“In order for us to meet these expectations, first of all, Sweden must do its part.”

Sweden and its Nordic neighbor Finland ended decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led defense bloc in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkiye and fellow NATO member Hungary ratified Finland’s NATO membership this year.

But both countries’ parliaments have yet to approve Sweden’s entry, a delay that has caused growing alarm in the West.

US President Joe Biden pressed Erdogan about Sweden during a call he placed after the Turkish leader secured re-election last month.

And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed the bid with Erdogan in Istanbul earlier this month.

Erdogan noted that Stoltenberg’s visit coincided with a protest held in Stockholm by Kurdish supporters of a group recognized as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Turkiye is pushing Sweden to ban and crack down on such rallies.

“There are rights given to (Sweden’s) law enforcement under the constitution. Use those rights. If you don’t deal with it, we cannot (say yes) at the summit in Vilnius,” Erdogan said.