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Stoltenberg to travel to Turkiye to discuss Sweden NATO membership

June 1, 2023 at 3:54 pm

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference prior to the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on Apr.04-05, in Brussels, Belgium on April 03, 2023 [Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday he would soon travel to Turkiye to discuss Sweden’s NATO membership, in a bid to close a process that has been delayed due to objections from member countries, Turkiye and Hungary, Reuters reports.

Speaking during a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo, Stoltenberg said he had spoken earlier this week to Tayyip Erdogan, who was re-elected as Turkiye’s President on Sunday.

“I will also travel to Ankara in the near future to continue to address how we can ensure the fastest possible accession of Sweden,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Some NATO foreign ministers expressed optimism that, now the election was over, Ankara would lift its objections to Stockholm’s bid to join the military alliance. Turkiye ratified Finland’s NATO accession in March, but says Sweden harbours members of militant groups it considers terrorists.

“Now that Turkish elections are over, it is important that Turkiye goes on with the ratification process,” said Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto.

READ: Turkiye wants action from NATO hopeful, Sweden, over flag incident

Stoltenberg said, at the end of the meeting, that with the Turkish election over, “it is important to restart the dialogue and the process”, noting that Sweden had, on Thursday, implemented new terrorism legislation, thus addressing a key Turkish concern.

“Sweden has delivered,” Stoltenberg said. “The time has come to ratify Sweden (its membership) and I am working hard so that it happens as soon as possible.”

Several foreign ministers expressed confidence Sweden could become a member before or at a NATO summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“We’re continuing to work to complete the accession process for Sweden … and we fully anticipate doing so by the time the leaders meet in Vilnius,” said US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

Lithuania, which will host the summit, was similarly upbeat. “There is a very high expectation that the Swedish flag will be raised (in Vilnius),” said its Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Sweden, invited to Oslo, stressed again it had fulfilled all the conditions set to become a member of the military alliance.

“We have fulfilled all our commitments,” Swedish Foreign Minister, Tobias Billstrom, told reporters. “It is time for Turkiye and Hungary to start the ratification of Swedish membership to NATO.”

READ: After Finland joins NATO, why is Turkiye making Sweden wait?