Turkey calls for ‘concrete steps’ before backing Sweden Nato bid

Turkey said on Wednesday Sweden's new government was more determined to address Ankara's security concerns in return for Nato membership but called for "concrete steps".

Turkey calls for 'concrete steps' before backing Sweden Nato bid
Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom shakes hands with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ahead a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on November 29, 2022 in Bucharest, Romania. Photo: Andrei Pungobvschi/AFP

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO gathering in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic nations — especially Stockholm — of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists” and held back on ratifying their Nato bids despite an agreement in Madrid in June.

“The statements (coming out of Sweden) are good, the determination is good but we need to see concrete steps,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Bucharest. “We told them we haven’t seen concrete steps on these issues”.

The progress included the most vexed issue of extradition of criminals and the freezing of terror assets, Cavusoglu said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström spoke optimistically about Tuesday’s meeting.

“I have to say that I felt after this meeting that yes, there is progress in line,” he said.”We are moving forward with the implementation of a trilateral memorandum which was signed in Madrid.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also sounded upbeat, saying he was confident that Sweden and Finland would “soon” join Nato.

“Turkey, Sweden and Finland are engaging directly as well as with Nato to make sure that Turkey’s concerns are fully addressed, including concerns about its security,” he said. “That process has been moving, moving forward. And I’m very confident and
again, based on what I’ve heard these last couple of days, that Finland and Sweden will soon be formally new members of the alliance.”

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become Nato members in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The decision requires a consensus within the US-led defence alliance, but only Turkey and Hungary are yet to give consent to their membership.

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Swedish PM: Turkey’s election could delay Nato decision

Sweden's prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has warned that Turkey's election could delay a decision on Sweden's Nato membership as diplomats from the two countries meet for talks on the issue.

Swedish PM: Turkey's election could delay Nato decision

“They have an election in the early summer and domestic politics plays a role in every country,” Kristersson said on Tuesday, shortly before the foreign ministers of Sweden, Finland and Turkey were due to meet in Bucharest. 

“We have had a very good dialogue recently,” Kristersson said, pointing to talks between the two sides in Stockholm on Friday. “This was the first time Turkey clearly expressed a view that Sweden is really delivering and carrying out what was agreed between Sweden, Finland and Turkey. That was a good sign.” 

Sweden’s prime minister Tobias Billström was due to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu alongside Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto on Tuesday at a Nato meeting in Bucharest, Romania. 

Ahead of the meeting Billström sought to downplay expectations. 

“We are going to have an exchange of opinions, but when it comes down to it, this is about living up to the tripartite agreement which was signed at the Nato summit in Madrid between Sweden, Finland and Turkey,” he said as he arrived at the meeting. “We believe that we have come a long way towards fulfilling the points in the agreement.”

The summit was the first Nato event attended by a Swedish foreign minister leading the delegation of a so-called ‘invitee’ nation. 

“I’m extremely happy to be here and that I believe it will be a productive meeting,” Billström said.