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Turkey Expects to Ratify Sweden Accession to NATO ‘Within Weeks’, Swedish Minister Says

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey has said it expects to ratify Sweden’s long-delayed accession to NATO within weeks, Sweden’s foreign minister told journalists on Wednesday.

Both Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Tayyip Erdogan, president of NATO member Turkey, raised objections over what he said was the countries’ protection of groups that Ankara deems terrorists.

Turkey endorsed Finland’s bid in April, but has kept Sweden waiting.

“I had a bilateral with my colleague, the foreign minister … where he told me that he expected the ratification to take place within weeks,” Tobias Billstrom told reporters before the second day of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

There was no immediate confirmation or comment from Turkey.

Turkey has demanded that Sweden take more steps to rein in local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.

In response, Stockholm introduced an anti-terrorism bill that makes membership of a terrorist organisation illegal, while also lifting arms export restrictions on Turkey. It says it has upheld its part of a deal signed last year.

Some in the Western defence bloc had hoped Sweden’s ratification would be completed by now for an accession ceremony to take place on the sidelines of the Brussels meeting.

“The Turkish foreign minister (Hakan Fidan) didn’t present a date but said ‘within weeks’. He expected the ratification of Sweden’s NATO protocol to be made within weeks. That was what he told me yesterday,” Billstrom said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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