Turkey has raised demands that Sweden, a NATO hopeful, cannot and does not want to meet, said the Swedish Prime Minister on Sunday.
Ankara has blocked Sweden and Finland’s entry into the Western military since May in an attempt to get the pair to meet certain political demands, prompting a long-running diplomatic tussle.
“Turkey both confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but they also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a defense think-tank conference.
“We are convinced that Turkey will make a decision, [but] we just don’t know when,” he said, adding that “the decision is in Turkey’s camp.”
Turkey has not approved Sweden’s NATO membership
Sweden’s new government has said that joining NATO is its top priority, and its application has been approved by twenty-eight of the alliance’s thirty members. But Hungary, whose parliament is expected to ratify Sweden and Finland’s membership bids in the coming weeks, and Turkey have yet to do so.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly accused Sweden of harboring Kurdish terrorists and alleged members of an Islamic sect blamed for a 2016 abortive coup.
The Financial Times reports that Erdoğan has singled out one journalist—Bülent Keneş, former editor-in-chief of the Today’s Zaman daily—and demanded his deportation over his alleged role in the coup attempt.
Sweden’s Supreme Court in December rejected the extradition request, ruling that Keneş risked persecution for his political views in Turkey.
Stockholm has made a number of concessions to Ankara, including distancing itself from a Kurdish militia, lifting an embargo on weapons exports to Turkey, and stressing it would work to combat terrorism.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expects Sweden and Finland to join the alliance as early as this year, admitting that the decision depends on the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments.
“I expect [that accession will take place in 2023], but I will not guarantee the exact date, because it is of course a sovereign decision of the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments, [which] have not yet ratified the agreement,” Stoltenberg said.
Finland and Sweden “are clearly committed to long-term cooperation with Turkey” and “the time has come to finalize the accession process and to ratify the accession protocol,” he added.
Related: Why Turkey Doesn’t Want Finland and Sweden to Join NATO
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