by Daily Sabah with Agencies
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said once again that he is “completely confident” that Sweden would join the military bloc days after the presidential elections in Türkiye.
“I am completely confident that Sweden will become a full member of NATO,” Stoltenberg said in Oslo during an informal meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers.
Türkiye and Hungary are the only countries of NATO’s 31 member states that have yet to ratify Sweden’s membership.
In a historic turnaround, Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
After months of delay, Ankara ratified Finland’s membership last month, enabling it to become a full member of the defense alliance.
But Ankara and Budapest have refused to ratify Sweden’s bid following a series of disputes and primarily security concerns raised by Türkiye.
“We will be in close contact with Ankara and President Erdoğan to help this process move forward as quickly as possible,” Stoltenberg told reporters after Tuesday’s discussion.
“They have already come an extremely long way since all the member countries, including Turkey, invited them to become full members at the summit last year”, he added, referring to a Madrid summit in June.
Since the summit, Türkiye has accused Sweden of not honoring the terms of a separate deal under which Türkiye had agreed to approve the bids.
Erdoğan himself slammed Swedish authorities for their “toleration” of extremists and terrorist sympathizers alike, which stands as the major roadblock to Stockholm securing Ankara’s approval.
“I have been of the opinion since last autumn that Sweden should already have been admitted by ratification, and I am still of that opinion, but when 31 countries have to agree, it probably takes a little longer than I would like, so we are working on it”, Stoltenberg said.
On Tuesday, Sweden once again drew Turkish ire, as Türkiye deplored an “unacceptable” protest by Swedish activists aimed at Ankara.
A pro-PKK group in Sweden posted an anti-Erdoğan video on social networks on Monday showing a PKK terrorist flag being projected onto the Swedish parliament – the latest of several similar stunts by the group which has repeatedly provoked Ankara.
Although Türkiye’s foreign minister is not scheduled to be present in Oslo this week, the question of Sweden’s candidacy will probably be raised again at an upcoming summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12.