'Increased' likelihood Finland joins NATO before Sweden: Swedish PM
Sweden's PM says it had become increasingly clear in recent weeks that Turkey was ready to ratify Finland's NATO bid first.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Tuesday indicated that the likelihood that Finland would join NATO before Sweden had "increased" as Stockholm's bid continues to face opposition from Ankara.
Kristersson told reporters that it had become increasingly clear in recent weeks that Turkey was ready to ratify Finland's bid, but still had reservations about Sweden's, meaning it could ratify Finland's first.
"We have no confirmation that will be the case, but we think that the overall assessment after many conversations recently is that the likelihood of this has increased," the Swedish Prime Minister said at a press conference.
Sweden and Finland have said they hope to be members by the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.
The two countries dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led military alliance last May in the wake of the Ukraine war.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members still to ratify Sweden and Finland's bids, which must be accepted by all 30 existing members of the military alliance.
The two Nordic countries coordinated their applications and, up until this point, NATO members have ratified both bids together.
Ankara suspended negotiations with Sweden in outrage following rallies attacking the Turkish leadership in Stockholm and the burning of the holy Quran outside Turkey's embassy, but the talks resumed in Brussels on March 9.
Turkey has opposed the bids, accusing Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for what it considers "terrorists", especially members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
On his part, chief Swedish negotiator Oscar Stenstrom said at the same press conference that "Turkey still doesn't think we are all the way there, and that was clearly laid out at the meeting," adding that Ankara had not expressed the same "displeasure" toward Finland.
In late February, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that "it's not possible for us to give consent (to a NATO bid) before Sweden fulfills its commitments" under a three-party protocol signed in Madrid in June.
One request vs. a long list of conditions— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 28, 2022
While #Turkey had a long list of conditions from #Finland and #Sweden, all the two Nordic states wanted was to join #NATO.
Here's your guide to understanding on what basis the agreement was made. pic.twitter.com/Aw7Jtu7frp
At the beginning of March, Hungarian lawmakers started debating the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden.
However, Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, confirmed on Tuesday that parliament would not sit next week.
"Due to the delay in the negotiation process with Brussels, the Hungarian parliament has no session next week," the press office of the Fidesz parliamentary group said in an email sent to AFP, without providing further details.
Budapest has been at odds with Brussels for months over blocked EU funds earmarked for Hungary as Brussels insists on anti-corruption reforms.
Yet, Kristersson stressed he was confident that Sweden would eventually become a member of NATO.
"This isn't about if Sweden becomes a NATO member, but exactly when Sweden becomes a NATO member," he said.
The Swedish Prime Minister also considered that with the security guarantees extended to Sweden during its application process, the country was "safer now than before we applied," and this would also be the case if Finland joined before Sweden.
Read more: Unless Madrid deal implemented, Turkey to block Sweden NATO bid: FM