Sweden heads to make-or-break moment in NATO bid with Vilnius meet

Sweden heads to make-or-break moment in NATO bid with Vilnius meet

Baku. TurkicWorld:

Sweden seems doing everything to anger Türkiye while clinging to the hope that Ankara will approve its membership in NATO. Türkiye, as a kingmaker in the military alliance where it plays an important role with its strong army and geopolitical position, will be the highlight of the alliance's summit in Vilnius which will commence on July 11, reports TurkicWorld with the reference to Daily Sabah.

The two-day summit, which will focus on challenges posed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, maybe the platform where Stockholm finally receives Türkiye's answer to its membership bid. Although a breakthrough at the summit appears unlikely, any step by Türkiye to extend approval to Sweden will be a highly symbolic show of force against Russia. Türkiye, meanwhile, happens to be the only NATO member which pursues close ties both with the Kremlin and Kyiv, a unique position that helped Ankara to extend a vital grain deal amid the conflict.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a delegation of high-ranking Turkish officials will attend the summit where they will meet their counterparts within the alliance which is tested by a conflict next door. Expanding the military bloc is crucial though Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland long abstained from joining it. Finland has received Türkiye's approval recently while Sweden's membership process has been a bumpy ride.

Sweden, which has been criticized in the past for harboring terrorists by Türkiye, sought to appeal to Ankara by legal amendments for counterterrorism but Ankara sees the current steps as not a giant leap forward. In addition, Sweden is in hot water for allowing the desecration of the Quran by anti-Islamic groups, under the pretext of freedom of thought at the expense of insult to the Islamic faith.

Erdoğan was blunt in his assessment of Sweden's NATO bid, in remarks on Friday. “How can Türkiye trust a country where terrorists are running wild? How can a nation that fails to distance itself from terrorism contribute to NATO?” Erdoğan mused as he addressed a military graduation ceremony in Istanbul, a day after foreign ministers from Türkiye, Sweden, Finland and NATO Secretary-General met in Brussels. “How can a nation that cannot fight terrorism fight the enemies of the alliance?” he declared.

Sweden’s recent trial of a PKK member for financing terrorism was a small step to address Türkiye’s concerns but Ankara expects more from the Nordic country whose former foreign minister Ann Linde admitted in a recent interview that her country did not take the PKK threat seriously in the past.

NATO and Western allies have been pressuring Ankara to ratify Stockholm’s bid before the summit, but Erdoğan has been resolute and recent anti-Türkiye and anti-Islam demonstrations in Sweden have further drawn his ire. Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership soon after Russia launched a war in Ukraine in February 2022. Although Türkiye approved Finland's membership, it is waiting for Sweden to abide by a trilateral memorandum signed last June in Madrid to address Ankara's security concerns about terrorism and terror groups like PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

“We have displayed our principal stance by ratifying Finland’s membership but we have not shied away from showing our reaction to those failing to take the necessary measures in the war on terror,” Erdoğan said. He further underscored that there was “no reasonable justification for embracing murderers who have attempted to stage a coup and murdered thousands of our citizens for 40 years.”

“We want (Sweden) to adhere to the promises they made to us in Madrid,” Erdoğan said and reiterated that Türkiye’s only issue was with terrorists. “We will bring up all these points with all our allies at the next NATO summit. We will do whatever is best for our country, nation, and our security,” the president said.