Erdogan announces new meeting on Sweden’s NATO bid

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said another meeting on Sweden’s NATO membership bid would be held later this month after hosting Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara on Tuesday.

Kristersson was hoping to persuade Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden joining the US-led military alliance, with Ankara accusing Stockholm and Finland of harbouring outlawed Kurdish militants.

Erdogan — who is seeking re-election next year — is in a position of strength, having persuaded Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to stop blockading Ukraine’s grain exports.

The Turkish leader said he “sincerely wished” for Stockholm to join NATO, but added: “We understand their security concerns, and we want Sweden to respond to ours.”

“Sweden will live up to all the obligations made to Turkey in countering the terrorist threat,” he said.

The amendment will make it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association of groups involved in terrorism”, the parliament said in a statement, adding that the vote was scheduled for November 16.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ankara last week to press the case for Sweden and Finland, saying their accession would “send a clear message to Russia”.

Writing in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on Monday, Erdogan’s advisor Fahrettin Altun voiced “cautious optimism” that the new right-wing government in Stockholm would take “concrete measures” to meet Ankara’s concerns.

Ankara says it provided Sweden and Finland in June with a list of people it wanted extradited. 

The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and most of its Western allies. But the YPG has been a key player in the US-led military alliance combatting the Islamic State group in Syria.

– Cashing the NATO enlargement card –

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told journalists on Monday he expected joining NATO would “happen in reasonable time”.

“The Turkish side will ratify their membership when it feels it is the best moment to cash that card,” said Ilke Toygur, professor of European geopolitics at the University Carlos III in Madrid.

“It is widely assumed that Turkey is also trying to negotiate for other things. It could be the F16s. It could be about its overall relationship with Russia.”

Turkey, which seeks to maintain good relations with Ukraine and Russia, has not joined Western sanctions on Moscow and has acquired a Russian missile defence system while also supplying Kyiv with combat drones.

There was still a “reasonable chance” Turkey would ratify the NATO bids before the 2023 elections, the source said.

Originally published as Erdogan announces new meeting on Sweden’s NATO bid