Cyprus Mail

Blinken urges Turkey to immediately approve Sweden’s NATO accession

u.s. secretary of state antony blinken and sweden's prime minister ulf kristersson meet, in lulea
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (not pictured), in Lulea, Sweden May 30, 2023. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstroemer via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Turkey to immediately finalize Sweden’s accession to NATO, saying the Nordic country had already taken significant steps to address Ankara’s objections to its membership.

Blinken also rejected the suggestion that Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid was linked to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, even though U.S. President Biden on Monday alluded to a link between the two.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister in Lulea, northern Sweden, Blinken said Washington was going to continue to work to complete Sweden’s accession in time for a mid-July NATO summit that will bring together the heads of state of the alliance.

“We believe the time is now and there’s no reason for not moving forward,” Blinken said. “Turkiye has raised important and legitimate concerns. Sweden and Finland both addressed those concerns,” Blinken said.

“We look forward to this process being completed in the weeks ahead. We have no doubt that it can be, and it should be and we expect it to be,” he said.

His comments came hours after Turkey called on Sweden to prosecute those responsible for projecting the flag of an outlawed group onto the parliament building in Stockholm, on the day of Turkish elections that extended President Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, ditching long-held policies of military non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bids for membership must be approved by all NATO members but Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden’s bid.

Turkey ratified Finland’s NATO accession in late March, but has continued to object to Sweden, saying Stockholm harbors members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden’s bid.

“We are in constant contact with our Turkish counterparts on this specific issue,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

“We have a memorandum and we are fulfilling it and the very final part of that is actually being put in to force on June 1, the day after tomorrow, with a new piece of legislation in counter-terrorism. It’s an important step and thereby we have done what we have told our Turkish friends.”

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