Swedish negotiators head to Ankara for renewed talks on NATO membership

Swedish negotiators are in the Turkish capital city of Ankara today, on Wednesday (14 June), for the first set of talks with Turkey on its NATO membership bid since President Erdogan's election victory on 28 May.

Update on 15 June: Following the meeting in Ankara, a statement issued by both sides announced that they discussed Sweden’s steps to fulfill its commitments on a trilateral memorandum signed earlier, and agreed to further meetings. "The progress on commitments is assessed at the meeting and the participants agreed upon taking subsequent concrete steps," the statement said.

Sweden applied for NATO membership alongside Finland on 18 May 2022, almost three months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. While Finland joined the military alliance on 4 April, Sweden's bid continues to be held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary.

Sweden's chief NATO negotiator Oscar Stenström and top civil servant in the Swedish foreign ministry, Jan Knutsson, are expected to meet Akif Cagatay Kilic, the new security advisor appointed by President Erdogan following his 28 May victory.

The two sides will discuss Sweden's membership of NATO, and the extent to which the country has fulfilled its promises in the so-called "trilateral memorandum" between Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed at NATO's summit in Madrid on 28 June last year. The full text of the memorandum can be read here.

Last Sunday (4 June), NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to approve Sweden's membership ahead of the bloc's summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11-12 July.

"Membership will make Sweden safer but also make NATO and Turkey stronger," Secretary-General Stoltenberg told journalists in Istanbul, adding that he looks forward "to finalising Sweden’s accession as soon as possible".

Meanwhile, after a meeting behind closed doors with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (13 June), the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted: "I believe Sweden's leaders understand and respect Turkey's national security interests. And I know it is in NATO's interests to welcome this modern, high-tech economy into the Alliance."

"The Senate hopes and expects to see Sweden become a NATO ally by the Vilnius summit next month," he added.

Sweden makes legislative changes to address Turkey's concerns

Turkey has accused Sweden of being soft on groups that they perceive as terror organisations or consider existential threats, including Kurdish groups such as the PKK, and the Syrian Kurdish militia group, the YPG, and its political branch, the PYD.

In an attempt to address Turkey's concerns and to persuade Ankara to approve Sweden's bid to join NATO, at the start of May Sweden tightened anti-terrorism laws to include a prison term of up to four years for individuals convicted of participating in an extremist organisation in a way that is intended to promote, strengthen or support the group. 

The bill, which entered into force on 1 June, also makes it illegal to finance, recruit for or publicly encourage a terrorist organisation, as well as travelling abroad with the intention of joining such a group.

source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) meets Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom (L) in Ankara, Turkiye on December 22, 2022. Anadolu Agency.

Related articles

Editor's choice
News
Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell underlined that the European Union will make every effort to support the peace process and to remain a committed partner to the Afghan people. "Of course, we will have to take into account the evolving situation, but disengagement is not an option.  We are clear on that: there is no alternative to a negotiated political settlement, through inclusive peace talks.
Editor's choice
News
Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to a peace deal

Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to a peace deal

Armenia and Azerbaijan last week announced they had agreed on the process of demarcation of their border in the Tavush region that will result in the return of four villages that had been under Armenian control since the conflict in the 1990s to Azerbaijan. The agreement is being seen as a milestone event that will greatly contribute to finalising the process leading towards the signing of a peace agreement between the two countries, who have been in conflict for more than three decades. The agreement comes after months of negotiations, and controversy, including some opposition from Armenian residents in the proximity of the four villages. On 19 April, it was announced that the eighth meeting of the Committee on Demarcation and Border Security of the State Border between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Committee on the Demarcation of the State Border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia was held under the chairmanship of Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafaev. There are of course many small details that will have to be ironed out later, but the fact that the sides have agreed the basic parameters, and especially their re-affirmation that they will "be guided by Alma Ata's 1991 Declaration in the demarcation process" is a huge step forward. No wonder that the international community in the last few days have lined up to congratulate the two sides on their success and to nudge them forward to complete the process of signing a peace agreement between them. Seasoned observers now see the signing of such an agreement as being truly within reach. Of course, there will be those who for one reason or another will not like these developments and will try to spoil the process. Armenia and Azerbaijan must remain focused on overcoming any last obstacles, and on its part, the international community must also remain focused in helping them do so as a priority.

Popular

Editor's choice
News
Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to a peace deal

Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to a peace deal

Armenia and Azerbaijan last week announced they had agreed on the process of demarcation of their border in the Tavush region that will result in the return of four villages that had been under Armenian control since the conflict in the 1990s to Azerbaijan. The agreement is being seen as a milestone event that will greatly contribute to finalising the process leading towards the signing of a peace agreement between the two countries, who have been in conflict for more than three decades. The agreement comes after months of negotiations, and controversy, including some opposition from Armenian residents in the proximity of the four villages. On 19 April, it was announced that the eighth meeting of the Committee on Demarcation and Border Security of the State Border between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Committee on the Demarcation of the State Border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia was held under the chairmanship of Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafaev. There are of course many small details that will have to be ironed out later, but the fact that the sides have agreed the basic parameters, and especially their re-affirmation that they will "be guided by Alma Ata's 1991 Declaration in the demarcation process" is a huge step forward. No wonder that the international community in the last few days have lined up to congratulate the two sides on their success and to nudge them forward to complete the process of signing a peace agreement between them. Seasoned observers now see the signing of such an agreement as being truly within reach. Of course, there will be those who for one reason or another will not like these developments and will try to spoil the process. Armenia and Azerbaijan must remain focused on overcoming any last obstacles, and on its part, the international community must also remain focused in helping them do so as a priority.