Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO, the alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
Stoltenberg tweeted that Erdogan met with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and came to an agreement about Sweden’s membership in NATO, hours after Erdogan said the European Union should first consider his country’s admission to the EU.
In a news conference Monday, Stoltenberg said that Erdogan intends to submit the ratification documents to the Turkish parliament “as soon as possible,” but declined to offer “exact dates.”
He added, “And then of course it is for the parliament then to … have the process and then do the final ratification.”
Hungary, too, has opposed Sweden’s bid to join NATO, but Stoltenberg said that Hungary would not be “the last to ratify.” So, now that Turkey has agreed to Sweden’s accession, “I think that the problem will be solved,” he added.
President Biden, who has supported Sweden’s induction into NATO amid the Russian invasion of Ukriane, hailed the agreement.
NATO member countries are meeting this week in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Stoltenberg offered only a broad description of how Turkey had arrived at its decision to support Sweden’s accession.
“What we have seen is that we have been able to reconcile the concerns that Turkey has expressed with the concerns that Sweden has expressed and then we have been able to find a joint ground common ground, and then move forward based on that,” he said.
Turkey’s communications directorate said in a statement on Sunday that Sweden had “taken some steps in the right direction by making changes in the anti-terrorism legislation,” but it criticized Sweden for allowing protests by organizations that Turkey has designated terrorist groups, including the pro-Kurdish PKK and YPG.
Turkey has also criticized Sweden for allowing protests that involved the burning of the Quran.
Sweden had applied to join NATO along with Finland, which was also initially blocked by Turkey. But Finland and Turkey worked out an agreement, and in April, Finland became the 31st country to join the alliance.
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As for Erdogan’s comments about Turkey joining the EU, Stoltenberg noted that he could not speak for the EU. Turkey has long sought membership to the EU, with the organization saying in 1999 that it would formally consider their application. After the 2004 enlargement — which did not include Turkey — the EU adopted a framework for negotiations, but there has been no progress since then.
Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.