Sweden and Finland have made some progress in addressing Ankara’s security concerns but still need to take “concrete steps” to win Turkey’s approval for their NATO membership, the Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday.
At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underlined that “it is time to welcome them as full members of the alliance.” The military alliance is keen to add the two Nordic nations to its ranks.
Sweden and Finland applied for membership in the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, with concerns that Russia could target them next.
Turkey, which has accused the Nordic countries of ignoring threats against Turkey from Kurdish militants and other groups it considers terrorists, has not approved their accession. The parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have not yet ratified their applications. The 28 other NATO states have already done so.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met their Swedish and Finnish counterparts at a NATO meeting in Bucharest on Tuesday.
“These two countries have taken some steps to fulfill their obligations. We are not ignoring the steps taken,” Cavusoglu told Turkish journalists on Wednesday. “But there are still no concrete developments on some issues such as extradition (of suspects wanted by Turkey) and freezing of terrorist assets.”
“We reminded (them) that ultimately it is the Turkish people and the Turkish parliament that must be convinced,” he said.
Sweden’s and Finland’s ministers sounded more optimistic.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told SVT that “progress was made” regarding NATO membership and that he would soon travel to Turkey.
– There await further discussions with my Turkish foreign minister colleague. I also look forward to having the opportunity to make reconciliations, says Billström.
The minister added: “as the negotiations move forward, we can probably eventually reach a point where the (Turkish) parliament can ratify” Sweden and Finland’s accession.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto told Finnish media that the discussions took place in a constructive, matter-of-fact spirit.
“We have received confirmation (from Turkey) that the conditions for Finland have also been met in many ways previously agreed,” Haavisto told Finnish public service company YLE in comments published on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is confident the two Nordic countries will soon join the alliance. He told reporters in Bucharest that relative to previous NATO enlargements, the current process is taking place at record speed.
“Turkey, Sweden and Finland are engaging directly, as well as with NATO to ensure that Turkey’s concerns are fully addressed, including concerns about its security. That process has moved forward and I am very confident… that Finland and Sweden will soon will become formally new members of the alliance,” he said.
Cavusoglu said Sweden’s new government was more “sincere” and “resolute than the previous government” in meeting Turkey’s security demands and had made some legislative changes.
“We still need to see their implementation. Some laws will come into force with the new year,” Cavusoglu said.