NATO leader praises Sweden's concessions to Turkey in membership bid

NATO leader praises Sweden's concessions to Turkey in membership bid
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. © Nato

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that aspiring NATO member Sweden has made notable efforts to overcome Turkey's objections to its membership.

Sweden is adapting its laws on anti-terrorism and working on an arms embargo that the country has with Turkey, Stoltenberg stated. Moreover, the country is safer today than before it applied for membership, the NATO Secretary-General stressed.

Both Sweden and Finland wish to join as quickly as possible. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the countries believe that they will be safer within the military alliance rather than under its longstanding neutral position outside of it.

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However, Turkey has raised objections to the accession of Sweden, citing its perceived support to the Kurdish PKK group, considered a terrorist group by Turkey as well as the EU.

Ankara claims this group is a threat to its security and wants Stockholm to impose tougher measures against the Kurdish PKK and the Gülen movement. In addition, Ankara wants Swedish restrictions on arms trade with Turkey to be lifted.

"Important steps"

Earlier, Stoltenberg described Turkish concern as "legitimate".

"I welcome the fact that Sweden has already started to amend its anti-terrorism legislation and that it is ensuring that the legislation on arms exports reflects its future status as a member of Nato, with new obligations to allies," the Secretary-General said at a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

"These are two important steps to address the concerns expressed by Turkey."

"We take Turkey's concerns very seriously, including security concerns in the fight against terrorism," the Swedish Prime Minister said.

Andersson stressed that Sweden's sterner anti-terrorism laws would come into effect in Sweden on 1 July, noting that Sweden's arms export agency would be set to review its policy when Sweden becomes a NATO member.

Stoltenberg previously said that Sweden and Finland would be welcomed "with open arms" and that he hoped the issues with Turkey would be cleared up before the NATO summit in Madrid on 28 June.

But he hinted that the dispute could be protracted in Finland on Sunday, saying "the Madrid summit was never a deadline."

In the grey zone

Stoltenberg stated that Sweden is currently in a grey zone, with Turkey blocking its membership for the moment.

NATO allies had provided security guarantees to protect Sweden in the transitional period before it becomes a member of the military alliance and before it can benefit from Article 5 of the defence agreement.

"From a security point of view, Sweden is in a better situation today than before its candidacy," Stoltenberg said, adding that "the NATO allies have responded ... by giving security guarantees to Sweden."

He stressed that if the Scandinavian country was attacked, it was "unthinkable that NATO allies would not react. This is a message that NATO has made very clear to any potential adversary."

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