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Sweden seeks to overcome Turkish objections to NATO bid

Magdalena Andersson, prime minister of Sweden, said her government did not want permanent NATO military bases on its territory Creative Commons
Magdalena Andersson, prime minister of Sweden, said her government did not want permanent NATO military bases on its territory
  • Stockholm’s application could be delivered on Monday, the PM said
  • Turkey has already expressed objections to the plan
  • Sweden’s defence minister is launching talks with Ankara

Sweden is formally applying for NATO membership, prime minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday.

“The government has decided to inform NATO that Sweden wants to be accepted as a member of NATO,” Andersson told reporters, adding that the application could be handed in on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. It will be synchronised with Finland’s request to join the military alliance.

Sweden’s government is hoping for a quick accession, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One obstacle has already emerged, however. Turkey surprised its NATO allies by saying it would not view applications by Finland and Sweden positively, citing their history of hosting members of Kurdish militant groups.

President Tayyip Erdogan called the Scandinavian countries “guesthouses for terrorist organisations”.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, said on Monday that Stockholm would start diplomatic discussions to try to overcome Ankara’s objections.

“We will send a group of diplomats to hold discussions and have a dialogue with Turkey so we can see how this can be resolved and what this is really about,” Hultqvist told public service broadcaster SVT.

Turkey has said it wants the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militants on their territory and to lift bans on sales of some weapons to Turkey.

Turkish state media said separately that Sweden and Finland had rejected requests for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey alleges have links to terrorist groups.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Stockholm’s decision to abandon the military non-alignment that has been a tenet of Swedish national identity for two centuries reflects a sea change in public perception in the Nordic region since Moscow’s attack in February.

NATO and the United States said they were confident Turkey would not hold up the membership of Finland and Sweden.

Any decision on NATO enlargement requires approval by all 30 members of the alliance and their parliaments. Diplomats said Erdogan would be under pressure to yield as Finland and Sweden would greatly strengthen NATO in the Baltic Sea.

“I’m confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

During a parliamentary debate in Stockholm on Monday, Andersson said: “Europe, Sweden and the Swedish people are living now in a new and dangerous reality.”

However, she added that Sweden did not want permanent NATO military bases or nuclear weapons on its territory if its membership was approved.

There is broad backing in parliament for the application, though Andersson’s government does not need its approval to go ahead.