Vilnius, Jul 10 (EFE).- Turkey on Monday lifted its objection to Sweden’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that military alliance’s secretary general said in a press conference.
Jens Stoltenberg made the announcement after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Vilnius on the eve of a NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital.
“I’ve just had a constructive meeting with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson,” the NATO chief said.
“I am glad to announce that, as a result, President Erdogan has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible. And work closely with (that unicameral legislature) to ensure ratification.”
He added, however, that he is unsure how long the process will take.
Referring to Hungary, which also has yet to ratify Sweden’s entry into the alliance, Stoltenberg recalled that Budapest has given assurances in the past that it will not be the last country to give its approval for Swedish accession.
Until now, Turkey had officially opposed Sweden’s bid to join NATO on the argument that the Scandinavian country had historically served as a refuge for members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
A guerrilla movement that launched an armed struggle against the Turkish state in 1984, the PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey, Sweden, the European Union and the United States.
In response to Turkey’s concerns, Sweden recently passed new anti-terrorism legislation that makes it illegal to belong to or provide financial or other support to a terrorist organization.
Even so, Erdogan’s recent statements had indicated he had not yet been won over by those moves.
Prior to arriving in Vilnius, the Turkish president caused a stir when he stated that the road to Swedish entry to NATO would be cleared when European Union members – most of whom also belong to NATO – loosened their objections to his country joining the EU bloc.
On Monday, Stoltenberg’s meeting with Erdogan and Kriserssen was put on hold while a bilateral sit-down was held between the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the Turkish leader.
After that meeting, which came after Erdogan had referred to a potential revival of Ankara’s EU bid, Michel said on Twitter that the two explored opportunities for bringing EU-Turkish cooperation back to the forefront and re-energizing their relations.
US President Joe Biden, who during a conversation with Erdogan on Sunday expressed support for Sweden’s NATO bid and also talked to the Turkish leader about the potential delivery of F-16 fighter jets, praised the end to the deadlock.
“I welcome the statement issued by Turkiye, Sweden and the NATO Secretary General this evening, including the commitment by President Erdogan to transmit the Accession Protocol for Sweden to Türkiye’s Grand National Assembly for swift ratification,” Biden said in a statement.
Sweden and Finland reversed their decades-old position of neutrality following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, asking to join the military alliance in May of last year.
Finland became the 31st member of NATO in April of this year.
Applications for entry to that military alliance must be green-lighted by all NATO members. EFE