Turkey agreed on Monday to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, said Transatlantic Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who held talks with Turkish and Swedish leaders in Lithuania ahead of the Alliance’s summit, due to take place between Tuesday and Wednesday. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears unwilling to fully commit, saying he would only support Sweden’s candidacy if members of the European Union (EU) agree to reconsider Turkey’s membership in the EU bloc.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to send Sweden’s offer to join the NATO military alliance to parliament, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of the Atlantic Alliance said. in vespers of the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, which will take place between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I am pleased to announce that President Erdogan has agreed to send Sweden’s accession protocol to the grand National Assembly as soon as possible and to work closely with it to ensure ratification,” Stoltenberg told a conference in press.
In turn, US President Joe Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with the President of Turkey on Tuesday while he is in Lithuania. A rapprochement between Erdogan and the Western bloc in the framework of the war in Ukraine that compromises Turkey’s mediating role between kyiv and Moscow.
But NATO’s efforts to show a united front at a crucial summit in Vilnius are not entirely successful. This same Monday, Erdogan also made statements to Brussels by conditioning Sweden’s arrival in NATO with the relaunch of negotiations for Turkey to enter the European Union.
The United States, the country that most financially supports NATO, believes that Turkey should not link Sweden’s membership in NATO with its rapprochement with the European Union (EU), according to the words of State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. While Washington approaches Ankara and welcomes its intention to accept Swedish membership, it will accept no strings attached.
Glad to announce that after the meeting I hosted with @RTErdogan & @SwedishPMPresident Erdogan has agreed to forward #Sweden‘s accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly ASAP & ensure ratification. This is a historic step which makes all #BORN Allies stronger & safer. pic.twitter.com/D7OeR5Vgba
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) July 10, 2023
“We believe these are separate issues and we support Turkey’s long-standing aspirations to join the EU, but this is different from Sweden’s NATO membership. We believe it is time for Sweden to join NATO and we look forward to for Turkey to support him, which the Secretary of State made clear during his talks with the Turkish Foreign Ministerthe spokesman said.
Türkiye, Sweden’s Achilles heel
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, abandoning decades-long Cold War policies of military nonalignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While Finland’s NATO membership was given the green light in April, Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden’s offer. Stockholm has been working to join the bloc at the alliance summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, which begins on Tuesday.
The Hungarian government took the first step in favor of Sweden on July 6 after Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff announced that Budapest would no longer block the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership. With this, the only leader of the European Union close to Russian President Vladimir Putin aligned himself with the interests of the Western partners in the war in Ukraine.
For its part, what was until a few hours ago Sweden’s last blockade, Turkey, relented. President Erdogan had resisted Sweden’s NATO membership for months.
Turkey has accused Sweden of not doing enough against groups Ankara considers terrorists, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), also listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States.
In addition, Islamophobic acts on Swedish soil have provoked the ire of Islamist President Erdogan. The most recent was the burning of a Koran (Islamic holy book) by an Iraqi residing in Sweden. Erdogan criticizes that the Swedish police authorize this type of act.
Erdogan’s Turkey’s relationship with the West has always been ambivalent. Some NATO partners believe the Eurasian country has been using Swedish membership to pressure the United States into acquiring Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter jets.
Ukraine: center of the NATO summit
NATO member countries were still divided on Monday over the framework for Ukraine’s future membership ahead of a two-day summit in Vilnius, during which they should provide security guarantees to Kiev.
As a sign of his desire to remove obstacles to said accession, the Secretary General of the Transatlantic Alliance announced that he had proposed the removal of the traditional obligations imposed on candidate countries by the Accession Action Plan (MAP), which brings together politicians , economic and military objectives that must be met beforehand, as other Eastern European countries have done in the past.
Jens Stoltenberg said this that additional meetings on Ukraine would take place in Vilnius before the summit. Meanwhile he Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is expected to participate in the summit, called for a “clear signal” that kyiv will join NATO as soon as the war with Russia ends. He demanded in this period of time, from now on, new security guarantees.
Eastern European countries and NATO members support Ukraine’s request. However, others like the United States and Germany are more cautious and want to avoid any steps that could implicate the Alliance in a direct war with Russia.
With Reuters, AP and local media