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Turkey’s Erdogan Defies Pressure Over Sweden’s NATO Bid


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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poured cold water on Sweden’s hopes of joining NATO at a major security summit next month, reiterating his long-standing objection to Sweden’s bid and dealing a blow to U.S. and other NATO members’ push to counter the threat from Russia. 

The U.S. and U.K. in particular have been pressing Turkey to lift its veto in time for the alliance’s next summit in Lithuania on July 11. Meetings in Turkey this week between Swedish, Turkish, Finnish and NATO officials were meant to help overcome Erdogan’s objections, in particular his accusations that Sweden is harboring Kurdish militants whom Turkey considers terrorists. 

But the Turkish leader, who beat back the biggest challenge to his twenty-year rule by winning re-election last month, said he remained opposed to Sweden’s accession, and that Turkish officials would deliver that message to their Swedish counterparts at this week’s meetings. 

“(Turkish officials will say) This is our president’s opinion, don’t expect anything different at Vilnius (the Lithuanian capital),” he was reported as saying by Turkey’s official Anadolu News Agency. 

NATO’s road to 32

Sweden had applied to join the alliance alongside Finland, its Nordic neighbor, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vast majority of the alliance’s 30 members backed the bids; the only dissenters were Turkey and Hungary, whose leader Viktor Orban has long enjoyed a close relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. New NATO members must be ratified by unanimous vote. 

Hungary dropped its veto after Erdogan approved Finland’s bid in March. Finland thus became the alliance’s 31st member earlier this year.

But Erdogan has only hardened his opposition to Sweden’s joining the alliance. His view may have been colored by a number of anti-Turkish protests in the Swedish capital Stockholm, including one in January where a far-right Swedish politician burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy. 

And while Sweden, in an effort to strengthen its membership application, has tried to address Turkish security concerns by implementing new anti-terror laws, Erdogan said Wednesday that it had not gone far enough.

“This is not only a matter of a law amendment or a constitutional change. What is the job of the police there?” he was reported as saying. “They have legal and constitutional rights, they should exercise their rights. The police should prevent these (protests).”

Source: The Messenger

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