Turkey, Sweden fail to end NATO membership standoff

The talks between Stoltenberg and the foreign ministers of Sweden and Turkey in Brussels was to overcome Turkey’s objections to Sweden joining the alliance.

 

    Brussels: Turkey did not green-light Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at a three-party meeting held here, but the participants agreed to meet again next Monday in Vilnius, Lithuania, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

The aim of Thursday’s talks between Stoltenberg and the foreign ministers of Sweden and Turkey in Brussels was to overcome Turkey’s objections to Sweden joining the alliance, Xinhua news agency reported.

Stoltenberg described the Brussels meeting as “productive” and reaffirmed that Sweden’s NATO membership is within reach. He added that he would convene a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the eve of NATO’s July 11-12 summit.

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Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year but faced objections from Turkey, which argued that the two countries harbour members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement.

Turkey eventually lifted its objection to Finland’s NATO accession earlier this year after Helsinki took “concrete steps” against such organisations. In April, Finland became NATO’s 31st member state. However, Ankara continued to block Sweden’s NATO bid.

Stoltenberg said Sweden had amended its constitution and introduced new anti-terrorist legislation, removed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey, and stepped up counter-terrorism cooperation, including against the PKK.

 

 

“Sweden has taken steps in terms of legislative changes, but legislative changes need to be reflected in practice,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was quoted by Turkish state-run Anadolu News Agency as saying.

Fidan said after the meeting that it is imperative that countries wishing to join NATO take a firm stand in the fight against terrorism.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said after the meeting that progress was made during the meeting and that his country expects “a positive decision next week.”

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