Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson yesterday said the likelihood that Finland would join NATO before Sweden had “increased,” as Stockholm’s bid continues to face stiff opposition from Ankara.
Kristersson told reporters it had become increasingly clear in the past few weeks that Turkey was ready to ratify Finland’s bid, but still had reservations about Sweden’s, meaning it could ratify Finland’s first.
“We have no confirmation that will be the case, but we think that the overall assessment after many conversations recently is that the likelihood of this has increased,” Kristersson told a news conference.
Both countries have said they hope to be members by the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.
Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military nonalignment and applied to join the alliance in May last year in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members still to ratify their bids, which must be accepted by all 30 existing members of the military organization.
The Nordic countries coordinated their applications and up until this point NATO members have ratified both bids together.
Ankara suspended negotiations with Sweden after protests in January that included a Koran burning outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm, but the talks resumed in Brussels on Thursday last week.
Turkey has opposed the bids, accusing Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for what it considers “terrorists,” especially members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
“Turkey still doesn’t think we are all the way there and that was clearly laid out at the meeting,” head Swedish negotiator Oscar Stenstrom said at the news conference, adding that Ankara had not expressed the same “displeasure” toward Finland.
Separately, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday urged Turkey to ratify membership of Sweden and Finland, speaking ahead of talks with his Turkish counterpart in Washington.
“I believe there is no reason it can’t be secured by the summit this summer for both Finland and for Sweden,” Sullivan told reporters ahead of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s special adviser and spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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