Erdogan demands concerns be resolved before Sweden's NATO accession
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Sweden should work against terrorism before expecting a positive response from Ankara.
Turkey expects Sweden to deal with Ankara's concerns on terrorism in return for its accession into NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday after returning from a visit to the self-proclaimed Republic of Northern Cyprus.
"We cannot have a positive approach [to Sweden’s NATO accession] under current circumstances. NATO cannot force us to admit Sweden without doing something against terrorism," Erdogan emphasized.
Sweden hopes to have its membership approved in the next NATO meeting scheduled in Vilnius, Lithuania. However, the Turkish President said, "Unless you resolve this issue, we cannot merrily approve Sweden’s membership in Vilnius."
Sweden took the first step to gain Turkey's approval of its accession into NATO when it expedited to Turkey a wanted man who had been convicted of drug trafficking and backed the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Ankara accuses Stockholm of being a sanctuary for "terrorists", particularly PKK militants, and has requested the extradition of numerous individuals.
Erdogan's statements suggest that Turkey wants more to be done by Swedish authorities before its guarantees that it joins the alliance.
Previously, Sweden made its NATO bid alongside Finland, but mounting tensions between Turkey and Sweden forced Finland to take a solo route and eventually garnered unanimous support for its accession into the alliance.
On Monday, the head of the Finnish Defense Forces and the NATO supreme allied commander in charge of transformation signed a declaration to signify the completion of Finland's military integration with NATO.
The declaration confirmed the fulfillment of the Integration Phase objectives accomplished by the Finnish Defense Forces. The joint statement was signed by Gen. Timo Kivinen of Finland and Gen. Philippe Lavigne of France at a ceremony in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, in the presence of Finnish leader Sauli Niinisto.
In the meantime, Sweden remains stranded, as Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billstrom, on June 7 that Sweden must take concrete steps in order to join the NATO alliance.