On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he wants Sweden and Finland to join the Western military alliance “soon” but that he can’t guarantee it as Turkey’s objection has blocked a swift application process.
“My aim is still to make sure that they [Sweden and Finland] can join soon,” the NATO chief said at an event hosted by Politico. “I cannot guarantee, but I’m saying that’s still my aim.”
Stoltenberg has tried to downplay Turkey’s stance and said it’s “not the first time we see one or just a few allies is not agreeing with the rest.” But officials in Ankara have made clear they won’t lift the objection unless Sweden and Finland take steps to address their concerns.
Turkey’s main gripe is Sweden and Finland’s alleged support for the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that Turkey, the US, and the EU consider a terrorist organization. The Nordic nations also have export controls imposed on Turkey that Ankara wants to be lifted.
Swedish officials have said they plan to change terrorism laws after meeting with Turkish officials, but Stockholm’s NATO bid was complicated by a deal the government of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson made to survive a no-confidence vote earlier this month.
To survive the vote, Andersson’s Social Democrats needed the support of Amineh Kakabaveh, an independent MP of Kurdish heritage. Kakabaveh voted with the government and said afterward that the Social Democrats agreed not to cave to Turkey’s demands regarding the Kurds.
The issue of Sweden and Finland’s membership is expected to be discussed next week at a NATO summit that will be held in Madrid from June 29-30. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the summit is not a deadline for talks with Sweden and Finland, which he said are ongoing.