ANKARA (AP): Sweden’s new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, is meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday in a bid to clinch Turkish approval for his country’s bid to join NATO.
Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the military alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, fearing that Russian President Vladimir Putin might target them next.
But Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952, has been holding off on endorsing their bids, accusing Sweden — and to a lesser degree Finland — of ignoring Ankara’s security concerns. Erdogan’s government is pressing the two countries to crack down on individuals it considers terrorists, including supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and people suspected of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.
Turkey also has called for the lifting of an arms embargo imposed following its 2019 incursion into northern Syria to combat Kurdish militants. Sweden last month said it would lift the embargo, a step seen as aiming to secure Ankara’s approval.
Kristersson is scheduled to hold talks with Erdogan at the Turkish presidential palace complex following an official welcoming ceremony.
Ahead of his visit, Kristersson wrote on Facebook on Monday that “we will do significantly more in Sweden through new legislation that provides completely new opportunities to stop participation in terrorist organizations.”
Sweden would also support NATO’s counter-terrorism fund to support the alliance’s ability to fight terrorism, Kristersson wrote.
All 30 NATO member countries must officially ratify the accession protocol for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. Only the parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so.
Last week, the NATO Secretary-General traveled to Turkey and urged the country to set aside its reservations over Finland and Sweden, insisting that the Nordic neighbors had done enough to satisfy Ankara’s concerns.
Turkish officials have said the two countries would join only after Turkey’s demands, agreed in a joint memorandun, are fulfilled. The 10-article memorandum was unveiled ahead of a NATO summit in June after Turkey had threatened for weeks to veto Sweden and Finland’s applications.