Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says his country could approve Sweden’s membership in NATO if European nations “open the way” to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says Ankara could approve Sweden's NATO membership if Europeans "open the way" to Turkey's EU bid.
Erdoğan, whose country has been holding off its final approval of Sweden’s NATO membership, made the comments in Ankara on Monday before departing to the alliance’s summit meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, but its membership bid has been stalled due to Ankara’s democratic backsliding and disputes with EU-member Cyprus.
Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania for a two-day summit opening on Tuesday.
They are expected to underscore their determination to act should Russian President Vladimir Putin try to expand the war westward.
The alliance also wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time the leaders meet but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move.
Turkey has stalled Sweden’s NATO accession, saying it needs to do more to crack down on Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers threats to its national security. Anti-Turkey and anti-Islam protests in Stockholm raised doubts that an agreement could be reached before the alliance’s summit.
But Stockholm says it has fulfilled its part of a tripartite deal that Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed at last year’s NATO summit in Madrid.
Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson were expected to meet later Monday in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, ahead of the NATO summit.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told public broadcaster SVT on Monday that he expects Turkey will eventually signal that it will let Sweden join the alliance, though he couldn't say whether that would happen at the annual summit.
“What we are counting on, of course, is to reach a point where we get a message back from President Erdogan that there will be what you might call a green light... a message that the ratification process in the Turkish Parliament can start,” Billström said.