On Sunday, the head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, hoped that Stockholm’s admission would be finalized “as soon as possible” and urged on Turkey to withdraw its objections to Sweden’s bid to join the US-led defense alliance.
There is mounting pressure on Erdogan to give the go-ahead for Sweden’s membership in NATO in advance of a meeting that is scheduled to take place in July in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius.
“Membership will make Sweden safer, but it will also make NATO and Turkey stronger,” Stoltenberg told journalists in Istanbul after meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and newly appointed Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who was previously the director of the intelligence agency. Stoltenberg was there to meet with newly appointed Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.
“I look forward to finalizing Sweden’s accession as soon as possible,” he said at the time. “It’s been a pleasure working with you.”
On Saturday, Stoltenberg traveled to Turkey’s capital city of Ankara to take part in Erdogan’s spectacular inauguration ceremony. Erdogan was just re-elected to serve as president of Turkey for another five years, and the event was attended by dozens of other international leaders.
Turkey, which is already a member of NATO, has been dragging its feet over inviting Sweden to join the military alliance. It is one of only two NATO countries, along with Hungary, that has not yet ratified the membership bid.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned their decades-long policy of maintaining a policy of military neutrality and submitted applications to join the alliance.
In April, Finland became an official member of NATO.
Protests directed towards Turkey
Erdogan has made the accusation that Sweden provides a safe haven for “terrorists,” particularly members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a group that Turkey and its Western allies consider to be a terrorist organization.
Stoltenberg stated that Sweden has responded to Turkey’s concerns by taking a number of major and tangible initiatives.
“This includes amending the Swedish constitution, ending the arms embargo, and stepping up counter-terrorism operations including against the PKK,” he said. “These are all things that need to be done.”
“Sweden has finished meeting all of its commitments.”
Tobias Billstrom, the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, stated that his country had met “all the commitments” to join NATO and he pleaded with Turkey and Hungary to let Sweden join the alliance. Billstrom made these statements.
Ankara is particularly dissatisfied with the protests in Stockholm that are directed against Turkey as well as Erdogan.
On Sunday, the Swedish authorities gave permission for a rally with the slogan “No to NATO, No Erdogan Laws in Sweden” to take place in the city center.
“In democratic societies, freedom of assembly and expression are fundamental rights and values.” But we shouldn’t lose sight of the reason why these things are happening,” Stoltenberg remarked.
“Organisers of these demonstrations want to block Sweden’s accession to NATO and undermine its collaboration with Turkey against terrorism and weaken NATO,” he added. “They also want to weaken NATO.”
“We must not give them the opportunity to be successful.”
Stoltenberg stated that a joint working group that had been established between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland at the alliance’s summit in Madrid the previous year would convene during the week of June 12, although he did not specify where the meeting would take place.
In addition, he commended Turkey for contributing extra forces to the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), which is responsible for maintaining peace in Kosovo.
On Monday, NATO-led KFOR troops battled with ethnic Serb protesters in a town in the north of Kosovo. The protesters flung rocks, bottles, and Molotov bombs, and more than 80 persons, including 30 peacekeepers, were injured as a result of the violence.
Stoltenberg criticized what he called “unprovoked attacks” against KFOR forces while he was in Istanbul. He also stated that “KFOR and NATO will take all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment for all citizens in Kosovo.”