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Erdoğan dampens hopes of Sweden joining NATO in July

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday rebuffed growing international pressure on Ankara to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid before the Western defense alliance meets in July, Agence France-Presse reported.

Western officials had hoped Erdoğan would soften his position on the diplomatically charged issue after he secured a hard-fought re-election last month.

But Erdoğan signaled no major shift in comments that were released by his office while Turkish and Swedish officials held last-minute negotiations in Ankara.

“Sweden has expectations. That doesn’t mean we’ll comply with them,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying.

“In order for us to meet these expectations, first of all, Sweden must do its part.”

Sweden and its Nordic neighbor Finland ended decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led defense bloc in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey and fellow NATO member Hungary ratified Finland’s membership this year.

But both countries’ parliaments have yet to approve Sweden’s entry.

Unanimous backing is needed for new countries to secure the guarantees afforded by the world’s most powerful defense alliance.

‘Let’s get that done’

US President Joe Biden pressed Erdoğan about Sweden during a call he placed a day after the Turkish leader extended his two-decade rule until 2028.

Ankara hopes to win US congressional approval of a major defense package that could substantially modernize Turkey’s ageing fleet of fighter jets.

Biden directly linked the F-16 fighters’ sale with the Swedish bid for the first time.

Erdoğan “still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let’s get that done,” Biden told reporters after the call.

And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg personally discussed the bid with Erdoğan in İstanbul earlier this month ahead of an alliance summit in Lithuania in July.

Erdoğan noted that Stoltenberg’s visit coincided with a protest held in Stockholm by Kurdish supporters of a group recognized as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Turkey is pushing Sweden to ban and crack down on such rallies.

“There are rights given to [Sweden’s] law enforcement under the constitution. Use those rights. If you don’t deal with it, we cannot [say yes] at the summit in Vilnius,” Erdoğan said.

Sweden has already taken a series of measures aimed at appeasing Turkey’s concerns.

It has agreed to extradite a self-proclaimed supporter of the Kurdish militants who was convicted in Sweden of drug trafficking.

It has also toughened up its anti-terrorism laws.

Turkey “was able to raise some concerns that it had. Finland and Sweden have both addressed those concerns and, in our judgment, addressed them appropriately and effectively,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week.

“And that’s what we’re looking to see take place over the coming weeks.”

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