NATO urges Turkey to approve Sweden’s membership in NATO

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OSLO, Norway (AP) NATO member nation Turkey said as military agencies try to discuss the issue pending a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and others due next month. increased pressure to withdraw their opposition to Sweden’s accession.

The military group is also considering strengthening Ukraine’s non-member status in the alliance and preparing a framework of security commitments it can offer after the end of the war with Russia.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance hopes to include Sweden by the time of the alliance summit in Lithuania next month. He also said the allies hope to see progress on long-term financing and Ukraine’s security plans at the same event.

He said the allies continue to unite on Ukraine’s entry into NATO, but in the meantime the alliance should offer security commitments and important new assets.

“Our focus today was on how to bring Ukraine closer to NATO closer to NATO, where Ukraine belongs,” he said.

“No one knows when the war will end, but then we must ensure that credible arrangements are in place to secure Ukraine’s future and break the spiral of Russian aggression,” Steitenberg said. 

Fearing being targeted after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military non-alignment and sought protection under the NATO security umbrella. Finland became the 31st NATO member in April.

NATO requires member states to agree unanimously. The Turkish government has accused Sweden of being too lenient on terrorist organizations and security threats, including Kurdish extremist groups and individuals implicated in the 2016 coup attempt. Hungary has also delayed approval, but has not made public the reason.

Stoltenberg said he will visit Ankara in the near future to further discuss how to ensure early accession of Sweden. He said his staff and those of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were coordinating the dates of the visit.

For months Sweden, Finland and Turkey have been holding talks to try to address Ankara’s concerns.

Billström said that he expects things to be made clear at a new meeting of this “permanent joint mechanism” in coming weeks. Sweden had tightened its antiterrorism laws. It is now it illegal to finance, recruit for or publicly encourage “a terrorist organization,” or to travel abroad with the intention of joining such groups. It may be the right time to move. Members of Sweden were campaigning for the Turkish elections won by Erdogan on Sunday. Erdogan is also looking for modernized US fighter jets, and the US government suggested they could be delivered this week.

US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken emphasized on Tuesday that the Swedish membership issue and the fighter jet issue are different. However, he stressed that the completion of both measures would significantly strengthen European security.

“In our opinion, both are extremely important for European security,” Brinken told reporters. “We believe both sides should move forward as soon as possible. That means Sweden’s accession and further development of the broader F-16 package.”