TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands before their meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Monday. Also seen is Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.—Reuters
TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands before their meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Monday. Also seen is Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.—Reuters

VILNIUS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to forward to parliament Sweden’s bid to join the Nato military alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, on the eve of a summit in Vilnius.

“I’m glad to announce ... that President Erdogan has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the grand national assembly as soon as possible, and work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

The Turkish leader had said ear- lier on Monday he would only back Sweden’s Nato candidacy if the European Union resumes long-stalled membership talks with Ankara.

Erdogan has been blocking Sweden’s accession for months because of Stockholm’s refusal to crack down on Kurdish militants.

Sweden and Finland applied to join Nato last year, casting aside policies of military non-alignment that had lasted through the decades of the Cold War as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reframed security considerations.

Applications to the alliance must be approved by all Nato members. While Finland’s application was given the go-ahead in April, Turkiye and Hungary held off on clearing Sweden’s bid.

Stockholm has been working hard at its bid ahead of the Nato summit in Vilnius, together with the United States and its allies, urging Turkiye to abandon its opposition.

Erdogan has said Sweden harbours members of militant groups, mainly supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who he accuses of organising demonstrations and financing terrorist groups, while anti-Turkish protests in Stockholm have also raised his ire.

Sweden says it has fulfilled all the demands agreed upon in negotiations with Turkiye last year, including introducing a new bill that makes being a member of a terrorist organisation illegal, and stressed freedom of speech is protected in its constitution.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday that Budapest would not block Stockholm’s Nato membership ratification.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2023

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