Sweden’s foreign minister said his country was getting closer to having its NATO bid ratified by one of the remaining supporters of the military alliance.
Twenty-eight of NATO’s current 30 members have ratified membership applications from Sweden and Finland since the two Scandinavian countries submitted formal applications in May. Canada was the first to ratify the requests.
But Turkey – along with Hungary – has yet to approve the offers. The Turkish government has said that Sweden in particular must crack down on Kurdish and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists.
New NATO memberships must be approved by all current member states.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told CBC News Network Rosemary Barton Live in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the sticking points with Turkey are almost resolved.
“We are now very close to the time when it is time for the Turkish parliament to start the ratification process,” Billström told host Rosemary Barton.
Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed a trilateral memorandum at the NATO summit in June that paved the way for the Turkish government to endorse both bids.
Billström said his country had “completely” fulfilled its part of the deal, but he noted that its provisions had to be in line with Sweden’s constitution following Turkey’s recent pushback.
Pro-Kurdish and anti-NATO groups have complicated matters for the Swedish government by staging anti-Turkish protests that have infuriated the Turkish government, including an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was briefly hung outside City Hall from Stockholm earlier this month.
The Turkish government called for an investigation into the protest, saying it constituted racism and a hate crime. Swedish prosecutors have so far said they will not open an investigation.
On Saturday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar canceled a visit by his Swedish counterpart scheduled for later in the month, citing what he called “disgusting” anti-Turkish protests in Sweden.
The meeting no longer had “significance or point”, Akar said.
NATO calls for response to Russia’s war on Ukraine
Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of non-alignment and applied to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.
“The reason we are so eager to join is the deteriorating security situation in our neighborhood,” Billström said.
Dan Rice, a US military expert who currently serves as a special adviser to the chief of Ukrainian forces, said security in the region was exactly why NATO was originally created.
“I think this is a remarkable and tremendous example of NATO coming together to finally fulfill the mission that it was formed in 1949,” Rice said. Rosemary Barton live in a separate interview that aired on Sunday.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told CBC News Network power and politics Thursday that Russia’s invasion strengthened NATO.
“Vladimir Putin hoped to break up NATO as a defensive alliance, and instead we saw NATO coming together and two new countries applying to join NATO in direct response to the attempted invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” he said.