ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed Sunday Sweden’s bid for membership of the alliance and Turkiye’s fears about this step.
The meeting between the two sides was held at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, in the presence of Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Defense Minister Yasar Guler and presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin as well as NATO officials, the Turkish Anadolu News Agency reported.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Erdogan, Stoltenberg said some are trying to prevent Sweden from joining NATO, with the aim of weakening the alliance.
He revealed that there would be a gathering between Ankara and Stockholm on June 12 to discuss the latter’s membership of the NATO. The NATO chief described that Turkiye’s concerns about Sweden’s NATO membership as “legitimate”.
Ankara is still opposing Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, accusing it of supporting the armed groups, which “threaten Turkish national security”.
Calling Türkiye an important and highly valued ally, Stoltenberg praised Türkiye’s contributions of troops to NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, including reinforcements following the recent unrest in northern Kosovo.
He also thanked Turkey for contributing to NATO’s training for Iraqi forces, pre-assigning troops to the multinational battlegroup in Hungary, and providing strong support to Ukraine, including through leadership of the Black Sea grain initiative.
He congratulated President Erdogan on his re-election and on the high turnout among the Turkish people.
They discussed a range of issues on the agenda for July’s NATO Summit in Vilnius, including support to Ukraine, work to bolster deterrence and defence, and the fight against terrorism.
Stoltenberg noted that Stockholm has taken significant, concrete steps to meet Türkiye’s concerns, including amending the Swedish constitution, ending its arms embargo, and stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation, including against the PKK.
He further noted that important new anti-terrorism legislation has come into force in the past few days, and that Sweden has fulfilled its obligations.
Stoltenberg and President Erdogan agreed that the Permanent Joint Mechanism between Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden should meet again in the week beginning on June 12. Stoltenberg said he looked forward to finalizing Sweden’s accession as soon as possible.
Turkey in March ratified Finland’s bid for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but still objects to Sweden joining the alliance, as does Hungary. — Agencies