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US urges Turkey, Hungary to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson (R) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson (R) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin address a press conference after a bilateral meeting at the Musko Naval Base, south of Stockholm, on April 19, 2023. It is the first visit of the US Defense Secretary to Sweden. Fredrik SANDBERG / TT NEWS AGENCY /

Washington on Wednesday urged Turkey and Hungary to quickly ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid, which has been blocked for months due to a series of disputes with the two nations, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We look forward to soon welcoming Sweden as the 32nd [member of NATO]. And to be clear, we look forward to that happening before the [NATO] summit in July,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on a visit to Sweden.

“So we encourage our allies, Turkey and Hungary, to ratify Sweden’s accession as soon as possible,” he said.

Highlighting the US support for Sweden, Austin said the US had increased its military presence in the Scandinavian country.

“To underscore our deep support, the department [of defense] has increased the number of ship visits and bomber task force missions and high level engagements with Sweden,” he said.

Ending two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment, Sweden and neighboring Finland announced bids to join NATO in May 2022, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But while Finland managed to become the 31st member of NATO on April 4, Sweden’s bid still faces opposition.

New members need to be unanimously ratified by all members of the alliance, and Sweden still faces opposition from Ankara and Budapest.

Sweden has especially angered Turkey by refusing to extradite dozens of suspects that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan links to a 2016 coup attempt and a decades-long Kurdish struggle for independence.

Hungary, meanwhile, has “an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed” before it can ratify the Swedish bid, presidential spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said in March, accusing Swedish representatives of being “repeatedly keen to bash Hungary” on rule-of-law issues.

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