Erdogan Makes Turkey’s E.U. Bid a Condition of Supporting Sweden’s NATO Membership

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey mentioned on Monday that the European Union ought to open the best way for Turkey to affix the bloc earlier than Turkey permits Sweden to affix NATO, including a shocking new situation that would additional stall the navy alliance’s efforts to develop.

Mr. Erdogan’s newest demand got here a day earlier than the opening of NATO’s two-day annual summit, the place leaders, together with President Biden, had hoped to safe unanimous approval from member states to permit Sweden to grow to be the 32nd member.

That end result now seems more and more unlikely, with Mr. Erdogan posing the primary impediment to Sweden’s membership.

“First, clear the way for Turkey in the European Union, then we will clear the way for Sweden as we did for Finland,” Mr. Erdogan informed reporters earlier than touring to the NATO summit.

Leaders of the European Union and NATO member states are usually not prone to reply positively, since they’re separate organizations which have many overlapping members however totally completely different functions. Turkey utilized to affix the European Union in 1987, however there was scarcely any progress in its bid since 2016, when the European Parliament voted to droop accession talks whereas criticizing a huge Turkish authorities crackdown on political opponents after a failed coup in opposition to Mr. Erdogan.

NATO’s secretary common, Jens Stoltenberg, mentioned on Monday that he helps Turkey’s ambition to affix the European Union, however that it was not among the many circumstances set by officers from Turkey, Sweden and Finland final yr at a NATO summit in Madrid.

“We need to remember that what we agreed in Madrid was a specific list of conditions that Sweden has to meet to be a full member of the alliance, and Sweden has met these conditions,” Mr. Stoltenberg informed reporters in Lithuania.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, which is a member of each the European Union and NATO, mentioned that the 2 points shouldn’t be linked.

“Sweden meets all the requirements for NATO membership,” Mr. Scholz informed reporters in Berlin. “The other question is one that is unrelated, and so I don’t think it should be taken as a related issue.”

Sweden utilized to affix NATO final yr, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All NATO nations should conform to admit new members, a rule that has given Mr. Erdogan great leverage to demand concessions.

Turkey has accused Sweden of offering a permissive atmosphere for dissidents whom Turkey considers terrorists, together with pro-Kurdish activists and members of a non secular group that Turkey has accused of planning the 2016 coup try.

In current months, Sweden has made efforts to fulfill Turkey’s calls for, amending its Constitution, passing new counterterrorism laws and agreeing to extradite a number of Turks who stand accused of crimes in Turkey. But Swedish courts have blocked different extraditions, and Swedish officers have mentioned that they can’t override their nation’s free-speech protections.

Mr. Erdogan has continued to say that Sweden should do extra.

A brand new complication arose late final month after a man publicly burned a Quran at a protest in Stockholm on a main Muslim vacation. Mr. Erdogan criticized Sweden for allowing the protest and mentioned that the Swedish authorities wanted to struggle Islamophobia, despite the fact that that had not been among the many points Sweden had agreed with Turkey to deal with.

Hungary is the one different NATO member that has but to approve Sweden’s bid, however Hungarian officers have mentioned that if Turkey’s place adjustments, they’d not impede the method. Finland utilized similtaneously Sweden, however overcame Turkey’s preliminary objections and joined the alliance in April.

By linking Turkey’s drive to affix the European Union with Sweden’s becoming a member of NATO, Mr. Erdogan threw one other wrench into the alliance’s negotiations lower than 24 hours earlier than NATO leaders are anticipated to convene in Vilnius, Lithuania, for his or her annual summit. On Sunday, President Biden spoke with Mr. Erdogan and informed him of “his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible,” in accordance with a terse account of the decision supplied by the White House.

Adam Hodge, a spokesman for the National Security Council, mentioned the United States continues to assist Turkey’s aspirations to affix the European Union, including that the bid was a matter between these events.

“Our focus is on Sweden, which is ready to join the NATO alliance,” he mentioned.

Before touring to the summit, Mr. Erdogan mentioned once more on Monday that Sweden couldn’t count on to affix till it had met all of Turkey’s calls for with respect to terrorism.

“Nobody should expect compromise nor understanding from me,” he mentioned.

Gulsin Harman and Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

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