Boris Johnson in Sweden for defence talks

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Sweden, with newspapers reporting he will sign a defence deal aimed at protecting Sweden during the Nato transition period.

Boris Johnson in Sweden for defence talks
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinks a cup of tea. Photo: Toby Melville/AFP

“This is a deal which is valid until further notice, but it is an important signal ahead of the coming [Nato] ratification process,” a source with knowledge of the deal told the Aftonbladet newspaper. 

Johnson will meet Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson at her official country retreat at Harpsund, about 100km west of Stockholm, followed by a joint press conference at 1.40pm.

The two will discuss the security situation in Europe and bilateral relations and cooperation between Sweden and the UK.

According to the newspaper, recent classified meetings of the Swedish parliament’s defence and foreign committees, MPs have been told of secret bilateral cooperation with the UK.

According to several of the newspaper’s sources, Johnson is visiting to officially sign an agreement on this deeper bilateral cooperation, which will, among other things, see British naval vessels dispatched to the Baltic to protect Swedish and Finnish waters during the Nato ratification process. 

Following the press conference, Johnson will then travel onwards to Helsinki, where he will meet with Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The goal of that meeting is the same: Johnson and Niinistö will discuss the European security situation and then hold a press conference together.

UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace visited Finland last week, and gave reassurances that the UK would support Finland and Sweden in the event of an attack from Russia, whether or not the two countries decide to join Nato.

This slightly toughened up an earlier pledge of support he gave at a meeting with his Swedish and Danish counterparts at the start of March.  

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Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Erdogan signalled on Saturday that no progress had been made in Sweden's bid to join NATO, urging Stockholm to take "concrete actions" to meet Ankara's concerns, his office said.

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden's NATO bid

In a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Erdogan reiterated that “Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combatting terrorism”, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey “wanted to see binding commitments on these issues together with concrete and clear action,” he added.

Finland and Sweden discussed their stalled NATO bids with Turkey in Brussels on Monday, but Ankara dampened hopes that their dispute will be resolved before an alliance summit next week.

Turkish officials said Ankara does not view the summit as a final deadline for resolving Ankara’s objections. Ankara has accused Finland and in particular Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Erdogan told Andersson that Sweden “should make concrete changes in its attitude” toward the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates, the presidency said.

“In this regard no tangible action aimed at addressing Turkey’s concerns was seen to have been taken by Sweden”, it added.

READ ALSO: Hopes fade for Sweden’s swift Nato accession

The Turkish leader also voiced expectations that Sweden would lift an arms embargo against Turkey that Stockholm imposed in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

He also said he hopes that restrictions on Turkey’s defence industry would be lifted, and that Sweden will extradite several people Ankara has accused of involvement in terrorism.

The phone call comes after Erdogan discussed the two countries’ bid with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. Erdogan also told Stoltenberg that “Sweden and Finland should take concrete and sincere steps” against outlawed Kurdish militants, the presidency said.