'A welcome message': Turkey open for new Nato talks with Sweden

TT/The Local
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'A welcome message': Turkey open for new Nato talks with Sweden
Foreign Minister Tobias Billström in Brussels on Monday. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin/TT

One month after the Quran was burned outside Turkey's embassy in Stockholm, Turkey has signalled plans to recommence Nato negotiations with Sweden.


Sweden's foreign minister Tobias Billström commented Turkey's decision on his way into a meeting with EU colleagues in Brussels on Monday.

"Of course I am aware that my colleague, [Turkish] foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has announced that they are ready to restart the discussion with Sweden, and we are obviously ready to do so," he told Swedish press.

"It is a good and welcome message from Turkey."

It is not yet clear what the next step will be.

"We will start with restarting [discussions], and that's the message that's been given today," Billström said.

Çavuşoğlu held a press conference earlier on Monday in Ankara with US foreign minister Antony Blinken, who is on a visit to Turkey where he will also meet with president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Negotiations between Sweden and Turkey to get the latter to approve the former's Nato application stalled in January after the controversial Quran-burning protest took place outside Turkey's embassy in Stockholm in January. The previous week, an effigy of Erdoğan was hanged in Stockholm, which led to major protests in Turkey.


Following these events, Turkey stated that they saw no issues in ratifying Finland's membership, with Nato confirming that the two countries' ratifications don't necessarily need to occur at the same time in order for either country to join.

Despite this, Billström still hopes that Sweden and Finland will be able to join the alliance together.

"Of course we're working with the goal that we can join Nato together with Finland," he said.

"But this is, after all, a question for the Turkish parliament. It's been a well-known fact from the beginning that this is an issue of sovereign states making sovereign decisions."

Pekka Haavisto, Finland's foreign minister, also attended the EU foreign minister meeting in Brussels on Monday.

"We're in constant discussion with Turkey and I know Sweden also has contacts there," he said.


"Of course, we hope that both countries can join Nato as soon as possible. I think it's very important that we have a very close cooperation with Sweden throughout this process," he said.

In just under a month's time, there will be an opportunity for a direct discussion between Sweden and Turkey. Sweden currently holds presidency of the EU commission, meaning that Sweden and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will act as hosts for an EU fundraising conference on March 16th to support victims of the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

"The same evening that the earthquake occurred, just before midnight, I was in contact with my colleague in the foreign ministry where I suggested we should host this conference, which was welcomed on their part," Billström said.

"We count on Turkey, along with all other states, to participate at a high level," he added.


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