Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated that Sweden’s NATO membership bid would not receive Turkey’s support unless anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm were stopped, according to a report on Wednesday. Erdogan made this comment during a flight from Azerbaijan, indicating that Turkey could not endorse Sweden’s NATO bid while protests by “terrorists” were taking place in the Swedish capital. Talks between Turkish and Swedish officials were scheduled to take place in Ankara on Wednesday, where Turkey’s position on the matter would be reiterated.
Negotiations aimed at addressing Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s NATO membership bid were held in Ankara, with representatives from Turkey, Sweden, Finland, and NATO in attendance. Although discussions were reportedly positive, no new date was set for further talks. Oscar Stenstrom, Sweden’s chief negotiator, expressed the need to convince Turkey that Sweden had made sufficient progress to warrant approval. However, Turkey remained indecisive, seeking further answers to their concerns.
The Turkish presidency issued a statement following the meeting, confirming that the progress made by Sweden under the trilateral agreement in Madrid last year was discussed. The parties involved agreed to continue working on concrete steps towards Sweden’s NATO membership. In March, Turkey ratified Finland’s NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Turkey and Hungary continue to oppose Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.
Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s NATO membership are based on allegations that Stockholm shelters members of Kurdish militant groups, which Turkey considers terrorists. Sweden has insisted that it has fulfilled its obligations under the Madrid agreement, including the enactment of a new anti-terrorism law. The country maintains that it adheres to national and international extradition laws.
The strained relations between Turkey and Sweden were further exacerbated by an anti-Turkey and anti-NATO protest in Stockholm, during which the flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and the European Union, was projected onto the parliament building. Erdogan emphasized the role of the police in preventing such protests, stating that they have the legal and constitutional rights to do so.
Erdogan mentioned that he had raised the issue with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during their recent meeting. Another protest took place in Stockholm while Erdogan was in discussions with Stoltenberg, prompting Erdogan to urge Sweden to take measures to prevent such actions if it wanted Turkey’s approval for its NATO membership. Stoltenberg, after meeting with Erdogan, expressed optimism that an agreement regarding Sweden’s NATO membership could be reached before the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius.