US pushes back as Erdogan links Sweden’s NATO entry to Turkey’s EU bid
Just hours prior to a summit where the EU had hoped to finalize Sweden's accession, the US says that Turkey’s membership application and process is a matter between the EU and Turkey.
The United States maintains its support for Turkey's bid to join the EU, however, has turned its attention towards Sweden's move to join NATO, a White House National Security Council spokesperson said Monday.
"The US has always supported Turkey's EU membership aspirations and continues to do so. Turkey’s membership application and process is a matter between the EU and Turkey. Our focus is on Sweden, which is ready to join the NATO Alliance," the spokesperson said, as quoted by a reporter on Twitter.
This comes one day after a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden during which the two leaders addressed Sweden and Ukraine's applications for NATO membership among other issues.
As to the Turkish presidency, "The talks focused on Ukraine's status in NATO, Sweden's membership in NATO, the supply of F-16 aircraft and Turkey's process of full membership in the European Union (EU). The leaders agreed to meet in person in Vilnius (at the NATO summit) and discuss in detail Turkey-US bilateral relations and regional issues."
Erdogan told Biden that "Sweden has taken some steps in the right direction by amending anti-terrorism legislation, but the fact that supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK/PYD/YPG), banned in Turkey, continue to freely hold demonstrations glorifying terrorism makes the steps taken futile."
The Turkish leader also criticized attempts to link Sweden's membership to Turkey's request for F-16 procurement and praised Biden for supporting Ankara's demand for F-16 fighter jet shipments.
The statement said that "declaring that Turkey is principled and honest about Turkey's EU membership, President Erdogan said that Ankara will revive the process of full EU membership and wants leading European Union countries and EU leaders to send a clear and strong message of support for Turkey's membership at the Vilnius summit."
Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year, citing changes in the European security picture because of the Ukraine crisis. As Finland went on to become a member, Turkey, and Hungary stymied Sweden's bid, with Budapest citing grievances over Stockholm's criticism of Hungary's Prime Minister and Ankara accusing Sweden of harboring what it considers Kurdish terrorists and, most recently, meddling in Turkish elections.
Erdogan stated that mere changes in Swedish law regarding terrorism are insufficient for Ankara to approve its NATO bid.
Back in May, shortly after Erdogan's reelection, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was "absolutely possible" to decide on Sweden's NATO membership before the alliance's summit scheduled to take place on 11-12 July 2023, in Vilnius.