Turkey stalls Sweden’s NATO bid ahead of Stoltenberg, Swedish PM’s visits

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Turkey isn’t satisfied with promises made by Sweden to crack down on Kurdish separatists and is unlikely to lift its objections to the nation’s NATO membership bid unless it takes more definitive steps, Turkey’s ruling AK Party spokesman Omer Celik said.

“These statements of Sweden are good, but not enough until they are implemented, “Celik said late Monday. “We are waiting for it to come to life.”


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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Sweden and Finland -- both of which sought NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine -- extradite suspects Turkey considers terrorists.

Celik’s remarks, ahead of a visit by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this week and a separate trip by new Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson next week, signaled that Turkey remains defiant in ratifying the membership bids that it first threatened to veto in May.

“We have full respect for the fact that every country within the alliance makes its own decisions,” Kristersson said at a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday. “I had a telephone call with President Erdogan the other day. We agreed on me coming to Ankara and I will communicate the exact date when it is formally confirmed.”

Stoltenberg has encouraged both Sweden and Finland to accede to the requests from Turkey, which has the second-largest armed forces within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the US.

While an agreement in June nudged the process forward, allowing 28 of the alliance’s 30 members to ratify the Nordic nations’ entry, Turkey and Hungary remain the holdouts.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet Stoltenberg in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the expansion of NATO as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Turkish leader is expected to receive Sweden’s Kristersson in Ankara on November 8. In a call with the prime minister last week, Erdogan stressed that “preventing terrorist organizations from taking hostage Sweden’s NATO membership and its relations with Turkey is a common interest,” according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Sweden has been one of Europe’s most willing recipients of migrants fleeing conflict, including Kurds.

Kristersson has repeatedly said that his country will honor the agreement with Turkey, and cooperate on fighting terrorism.

Erdogan is facing elections next year and is keen to consolidate nationalist support by pressuring the Nordic nations to make written commitments to crack down not only on supporters of the Kurdish PKK militant group -- already designated a terrorist organization by the European Union and the US -- but also on its affiliates such as the so-called YPG militia in Syria.

Backed by Western nations, the YPG played a significant role in defeating ISIS militants in Syria. Turkey accuses the group of attacking its soldiers near the countries’ border.

Read more: Sweden agrees to extradite man to Turkey in wake of NATO deal

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