NATO Sec Gen: Decision on Sweden ‘within reach’ given ‘window’ after Turkey elections
A decision on Sweden’s NATO membership is “within reach” and “absolutely possible” by the alliance’s Vilnius summit in July, the Secretary General said on Tuesday, adding that there was a “window” after the Turkish elections which saw the re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who opposed Sweden’s membership.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo: “We don’t have any certainty… My message is that it is within reach. It’s possible to have Sweden as a full member by the Vilnius summit.”
He added: “Because there is a window now, especially after the Turkish elections and with the Turkish parliament being constituted. Of course, it is possible. We are working hard for this to happen as soon as possible.”
Stoltenberg stressed that he was closely working with officials in Ankara. “I am in close and constant contact with Turkish authorities, to ensure that Sweden becomes a full member as soon as possible… There are no guarantees but it's absolutely possible to reach a solution and enable the decision on full membership for Sweden by the Vilnius summit.”
Turkey had raised objections to Sweden's NATO membership, accusing Stockholm of supporting Kurdish militants, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara deems a terrorist organization, and failing to extradite dozens of suspected “terrorists,” specifically the followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that Turkey “has legitimate security concerns” and that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey.” However, he also stressed that Sweden delivered on what was agreed in last year’s Madrid summit that confirmed Ankara’s support to Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids, given that they agreed on cooperation in security and counter-terrorism.