Turkey conditions approval of Sweden NATO bid on putting legal changes into practice

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Thursday that Sweden’s legislative changes regarding the activities of Ankara-outlawed “terrorist” groups needed to be reflected in practice for Turkey to ratify its NATO membership.

“Countries that want to join NATO must take a firm stand in the fight against terrorism. Sweden has taken steps in terms of legislative changes, but the legislative changes need to be reflected in practice,” Fidan said after a trilateral meeting between the diplomats of Turkey, Finland and Sweden at NATO headquarters.

Fidan added according to Turkish state media: “We reviewed whether [Sweden] has made any progress. The infrastructure of the security system in Sweden frankly makes us think. We need to know that Sweden will be a safe ally for Turkey.”

Turkey has refused to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession over objections of alleging that Stockholm supported Kurdish militants, namely the 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.

Turkey had signed last year a memorandum of understanding on security and counter-terrorism with Sweden and Finland last year, under which the two European nations agreed to address Ankara’s concerns.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “Now it is time for Sweden to join the Alliance,” pointing to steps taken by Stockholm – including amending its constitution, introducing new anti-terrorist legislation, removing arms export restriction on Turkey, and stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation including against the PKK.

"In the meeting we all agreed that we have made good progress," said the Secretary General. "We all agreed that the full membership of Sweden is in the security interest of all Allies, and we all want to complete this process as soon as possible." He added that demonstrations against Turkey and against NATO in Sweden are aimed at blocking Sweden’s membership, disrupting counter-terrorism cooperation, and weakening NATO.

“Today, we reaffirmed that Sweden’s membership is within reach,” concluded Stoltenberg, noting that he will convene a meeting in Vilnius on 10 July with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson as the next step in the process.

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