Convincing Turkey on NATO no easy task – Swedish prime minister

While Hungary is expected to greenlight Sweden’s appeal to join NATO in mid-December, convincing Turkey to do the same remains a challenge, according to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

As the only two NATO member states that still object to Sweden and Finland’s accession bids, Hungary and Turkey enjoy a key position in western efforts to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion that began in February.

“I do not think that this is an easy task,” Kristersson told reporters on Friday, during a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin, Bloomberg reported.

Kristersson is “very prepared” to visit Ankara for talks, he said, without specifying a date. The prime minister also said his country was “wholeheartedly engaged” in honouring the agreement with Turkey.

“The fight against terrorism is legitimate,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s objection to the two Nordic countries’ bids was on the grounds that they were not strict enough against groups Turkey considers to be terrorist, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought against Turkey for some four decades for Kurdish autonomy, and the followers of U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara holds responsible for several attempts to topple the government including via a failed coup in 2016.

Turkey demands extradition for persons it deems as supporters of PKK and Gülen, while Sweden in particular has agreed to “address” Turkey’s demands, without committing to an approval. In many cases the persons in question have lawfully sought asylum in the country and have since obtained citizenship.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan and Kristersson held a phone call where both leaders agreed to a meeting in Ankara. Erdoğan has said the meeting will test how “sincere” the Swedish leader is.

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