Swedish NATO membership may be approaching. Turkey and Sweden will meet for new talks around 12 June, says NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg is in Turkey this weekend to meet the country’s re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Saturday, the NATO chief attended the inauguration of the president.
On Sunday, the two have been in talks to try to find a solution to the feud between Turkey and Sweden, which has prevented the Swedes’ entry into the defence alliance.
NTB-Reuters-TT reported on Sunday.
Sweden has taken great steps to accommodate Turkey, they meet the NATO criteria, Stoltenberg told reporters after meetings with Erdogan in Istanbul on Sunday afternoon, reports Reuters.
He says that the two have agreed to have another meeting between Sweden, Turkey and NATO in two weeks, around the 12 June.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO countries that have not yet ratified Sweden’s NATO application.
Among other things, the Turks have criticised Sweden for taking supporters of the armed Kurdish group PKK too lightly. The group is considered a terrorist organisation by both the EU and the US. Turkey has also asked the Swedes for the extradition of a number of people.
When Stoltenberg was asked whether Sweden could become a member of NATO before the defence alliance’s summit at the beginning of July, he was optimistic.
There is still time to get it done. Sweden has taken concrete steps to address Turkey’s concerns, he said.
Several observers have previously stated that there is a high chance that this case will be resolved once the Turkish presidential election is over.
Now that Erdogan has been re-elected and has a five year term, he does not have the same domestic need to play the role of “strong statesman” towards the West, as he had earlier this year.
Turkey will have clear incentives for approving Swedish membership, among other things in that it will increase the possibility that Turkey can buy new fighter aircraft from the United States.
There is a good likelihood (after a little tug of war for the sake of visibility) Sweden will be given the green light during the summer.
The NATO countries gather for a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on 11-12. July. It would be a fairly natural time and place to welcome Sweden as a new member of the alliance.
In any case, the limit has probably now been reached for how long Turkey can manage to delay this issue.