Sweden says Turkey asking too much over NATO application

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Turkey has demands that NATO hopeful Sweden cannot — and does not — want to meet, said the Swedish Prime Minister on Sunday.

Ankara has blocked Sweden and Finland’s entry into the western military since May in an attempt to get the pair to meet certain political demands, prompting a long-running diplomatic tussle.

“Turkey both confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but they also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a defence think-tank conference.

“We are convinced that Turkey will make a decision, we just don’t know when,” he said, adding that “the decision is in Turkey’s camp.”

Stockholm and Helsinki signed a deal with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has previously described Finland and Sweden as a “hatchery” of terror groups, while his foreign minister called on both countries to lift bans on defence exports to Turkey.

Speaking to Euronews in May, Paul Levin from the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, said Turkey’s primary concern is the presence of PKK activists in Sweden.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has fought an armed struggle against Turkey for Kurdish independence since 1984, leading to the deaths of more than 40,000 people.

NATO anticipates Sweden and Finland to join in 2023, according to its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who also spoke on Sunday, though he could not assure it would happen.

“I expect [accession to take place next year], but I will not guarantee the exact date, because it is of course a sovereign decision of the Turkish Parliament and the Hungarian Parliament, [which] have not yet ratified the agreement,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

In December, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recognised that Stockholm had taken “positive measures”, but said “other important steps” were needed before its objections could be lifted.

His remarks came a few days after the Swedish Supreme Court refused to extradite a Turkish journalist Bülent Kenes, as demanded by the Turkish President.

A former editor of a Turkish newspaper, Kenes is an outspoken critic of Erdogan’s government.

Only Turkey and Hungary have not ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.

All 30 members of the western military alliance must agree before a new member can be admitted.

On Sunday, Finland’s top diplomat reaffirmed that his country would enter NATO at the same time as its neighbour.

“Finland is not in such a rush to join NATO that we can’t wait for Sweden to get the green light,” Pekka Haavisto told reporters.

He explained that representatives from the Swedish and Finnish parliaments are expected to visit Ankara in January. Another meeting between the three is scheduled for spring.

Though closely aligned with the US-led military alliance, both Sweden and Finland had shied away from joining the organisation.

They launched membership bids in May last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.