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Swedish PM Discusses NATO Membership Bid with Turkish Leader

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Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Wednesday spoke by phone with Turkey’s Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the Nordic country struggles to overcome Ankara’s blocking of its NATO application. online news

Kristersson described the call as “constructive”, adding on Twitter that he was “looking forward to visit Ankara soon,” without providing any details.

Erdogan meanwhile said he would be “happy to welcome Kristersson in Ankara”, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.

Turkey “stands ready to advance the bilateral relations with the Swedish government in all areas”, it added in English.

NATO accession is a priority for Sweden’s new right-wing government.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden and neighbouring Finland tore up their longstanding policies of military non-alignment and asked to join the US-led military alliance.

The move has strong backing from most of NATO’s members.

But president Erdogan has objected, accusing the Nordic neighbours of harbouring Kurdish militants hostile to Ankara, especially supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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On Wednesday, Kristersson also reiterated that his government would fulfil the “trilateral memorandum,” between Sweden, Finland and Turkey.

The memorandum refers to a deal signed by the three states in late June in order for Turkey to allow the formal invitation process to go forward.

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The text confirmed that Stockholm and Helsinki consider the PKK to be a “terrorist” organisation. The Nordic nations also pledged not to support various groups which Ankara designates as “terrorist”, including the Kurdish armed movement YPG in Syria.

Under the deal with Turkey, Sweden and Finland have also agreed to address Ankara’s requests for “terror suspects” to be deported or extradited.

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Last week Kristersson announced he was ready to travel to Ankara to meet Erdogan.

Erdogan had swiftly agreed to receive him, but warned that the Turkish parliament would not ratify the two Nordic countries’ accession to NATO unless they honoured its extradition demands.

“President Erdogan stressed that it would be of common benefit to prevent Sweden’s bilateral relations with (Turkey) and its membership to NATO from being taken hostage by terrorist organisations,” the presidency said.

Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billstrom on Tuesday told AFP that Stockholm would deliver on promises made but stressed this had to be done in “a legally safe way… in line with the constitution”.

In August, Stockholm authorised the first extradition to Turkey since the Madrid accord was reached but that case concerned fraud and not “terrorism”.

In late September, Swedish authorities lifted a ban on military exports to Turkey, another of Ankara’s demands.

To date, 28 of the 30 NATO member states have ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland. Only Hungary and Turkey remain, but new members to the alliance require unanimous approval.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday also announced that he would go to Turkey “in the near future” to discuss Finland and Sweden’s pending applications.


© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.

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