The United States on Wednesday called upon Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s membership to the NATO alliance. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was on a visit to Sweden, hoped that the Russian maritime neighbour will become a NATO member before July 2023.
“We look forward to soon welcoming Sweden as the 32nd (member of NATO). To be clear, we look forward to that to happen before the summit in July,” Austin told a news conference.
“We encourage our allies, Turkey and Hungary, to ratify Sweden’s accession as soon as possible.”
The US defence secretary’s Sweden visit coincides with the Scandinavian nation’s biggest military exercise for more than a quarter of a century, Aurora 23.
Around 700 US marines will take part in the exercise along with troops from Britain, Finland, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Denmark, Austria, Germany and France.
In total, around 26,000 military personnel will take part in exercises around Sweden on land, at sea and in the air.
Along with Finland, Sweden applied to join NATO in May last year. Finland’s application was processed in record time and it became the 31st member of the alliance earlier this month.
Sweden’s accession has been held up by Turkey and Hungary, who have not yet ratified Sweden as a NATO member.
Austin was in Sweden to hold talks with Defence Minister Pal Jonson about the war in Ukraine and Sweden’s NATO application.
Sweden’s defence minister said Austin’s visit, which included a tour of the underground naval base at Musko, was a signal of the United States’ commitment to Sweden’s security “on a bilateral basis” and was an opportunity for Sweden to showcase its military capabilities.
The Musko base contains a naval dockyard, workshops, offices, warehouses and a hospital, all excavated deep beneath the rocks of Musko island during the 1950s and 60s.
Source : Wionews