NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey on Sunday to drop its objections to Sweden’s quest to join the US-led military alliance, hoping that Stockholm’s entry would be completed “as soon as possible”.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been under pressure to approve NATO membership of Sweden before a summit that will take place in July in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
“Sweden will be safer as a member but also make NATO and Turkey stronger,” Stoltenberg said after meeting with President Erdogan and Turkey’s new Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who previously led the intelligence agency in Istanbul.
“I hope to finalize Sweden’s entry as soon as possible,” he said.
Stoltenberg attended the event on Saturday to celebrate Erdogan’s re-election, who won another five-year term. The grand ceremony also drew dozens of world leaders in Ankara.
Turkey, a NATO member, has opposed Sweden’s entry to the military alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only two NATO countries that have not ratified the membership bid.
Finland formally joined NATO in April.
Anti-Turkey protests Erdogan has slammed Sweden as a safe haven for “terrorists” like the members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that Turkey and its Western allies have outlawed.
“Sweden has taken significant concrete steps to address Turkey’s concerns,” Stoltenberg said.
“This includes changing the Swedish constitution, lifting the arms embargo, and increasing counter-terrorism operations including against the PKK. Sweden has met the requirements,” he said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom also said that Stockholm had fulfilled “all the commitments” to join NATO and urged Hungary and Turkey to allow his country into the alliance.
Ankara has been unhappy with anti-Erdogan and anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.