Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he would back Sweden’s NATO candidacy if the European Union resumes long-stalled membership talks with Ankara.
“First, open the way to Turkey’s membership of the European Union, and then we will open it for Sweden, just as we had opened it for Finland,” Erdogan said in a televised media appearance on Monday, before departing for the NATO summit in Lithuania.
“This is what I told” US President Joe Biden, the Turkish leader said when the pair spoke by phone on Sunday.
Erdogan also said Sweden’s accession hinges on the implementation of a deal reached last June during the alliance’s summit in Madrid, adding that no one should expect compromises from Ankara.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, abandoning their policies of military non-alignment due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While Finland was given the green light in April, Turkey wants Sweden to crack down on groups that it deems national security threats, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
It wants the extradition of what it calls “terrorists” to be returned to Turkey from Sweden and a lift of the arms ban Stockholm imposes on Ankara.
According to international media reports, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said while he supports Ankara’s EU membership, as far as he was concerned, Sweden had already met the conditions required to join NATO.
“It is still possible to have a positive decision on Sweden in Vilnius,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said Turkey’s stance is a positive development.
“I hope that soon Sweden will be able to become a NATO member,” Scholz said in Berlin.
Turkey first applied to be a member of the European Economic Community – a predecessor to the EU – in 1987.
It became an EU candidate country in 1999 and formally launched membership negotiations with the bloc in 2005.
The talks stalled in 2016 over European concerns about human rights violations in Turkey.