Sweden says dialogue continues with Turkey over NATO membership

Sweden says dialogue continues with Turkey over NATO membership
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Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said the discussions are continuing in a very positive way

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said his country will continue talks with Turkey to overcome Ankara’s objections over its bid to join NATO.

"I think the discussions are continuing in a very positive way," Billstrom told reporters in Berlin on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Sweden that has officially applied for NATO membership with Finland in May, is trying to convince Turkey to drop its objection against Stockholm’s bid for joining the military alliance. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson this week paid a visit to Turkey, holding talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Following the meeting on Tuesday, Erdogan said he sincerely wished to see Sweden in NATO after a trilateral deal between Turkey, Sweden and Finland has been fully implemented. 

After Sweden and Finland promised to address Ankara’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects, Turkey dropped its objections against their membership applications, allowing the military organization to formally invite the two countries for joining the military alliance at a Madrid summit in June. 

But the final approval depends on the current member states’ parliaments. The NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland need to be ratified by the parliaments of all 30 members, where Ankara says it will not approve the documents if Stockholm and Helsinki fail to fulfil their commitments, regarding Turkey’s extradition requests.

Billstrom said discussions would continue on all levels, adding that he will also visit Ankara shortly.

Last week, days before Kristersson’s Turkey visit, Billstrom also said that Sweden will distance itself from the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria.

"The primary objective is Sweden's membership in NATO," top Swedish diplomat said.

Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), forming the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is allied with the West in a fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Ankara sees YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed armed group fighting an insurgency on Turkish soil for almost four decades. PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, but YPG is not.

Twenty-eight of 30 NATO member states by now have given the necessary official approval for Sweden and Finland’s joining the transatlantic alliance. Turkey and Hungary remain on the list that have not yet ratified the accession protocols.