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News / Nation & World

NATO chief heading to Turkey this weekend in fresh push on Swedish membership

By Associated Press
Published: June 2, 2023, 8:16am

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials this weekend as pressure mounts on Turkey to lift its objections to Sweden joining the military organization.

In a statement on Friday, NATO headquarters said Stoltenberg would attend Erdogan’s inauguration, after the long-term Turkish leader won an election runoff last weekend. The former Norwegian prime minister will also take part in meetings in Turkey on Sunday. No details were provided.

NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move. All 31 member countries must ratify a candidate’s accession protocol for it to join.

Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient on “terrorist organizations” and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt. Hungary has also delayed its approval, but the reasons why have not been made publicly clear.

“My message is that Sweden has delivered, and the time has come to ratify Sweden,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday at the conclusion of two days of informal talks between alliance foreign ministers to prepare for the summit in Vilnius.

Fearing they might be targeted by Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella. Finland became NATO’s 31st member country in April.

Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said Thursday that “it is time for Turkey and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.”

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