Turkey pushes back vote on Sweden and Finland’s Nato accession

Ratification will have to wait at least until after elections in May or June, says senior official

Turkey is unlikely to vote on Sweden and Finland’s accession to Nato before pivotal domestic elections expected in May or June this year, according to a senior Turkish official.

“We are not in a rush here, they are in a rush to join Nato,” İbrahim Kalın, chief adviser to Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, told journalists.

“Given the fact that the president will have to send this bill to the parliament to ratify it, lawmakers will have to be convinced. To be honest with you, we will not be in a position to have this passed just like that from the parliament.

“We don’t have the numbers, the opposition will ask all kinds of questions, and we cannot risk our political capital as we go into elections in the next three or four months,” he said.

A key general election in Turkey is expected before June, in which Erdoğan is expected to face a six-party opposition coalition at the ballot box, seeking to challenge his campaign to extend his rule into a third decade.

Only Turkey and Hungary, two nations that maintained ties with Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have stalled on the parliamentary votes required to approve Finland and Sweden’s accession, although the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said late last year that Hungary’s parliament would vote on the move in February. The next Nato summit is expected to take place in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in July.

Ankara has been under increasing pressure from Swedish and Finnish officials as well as the Nato chief, Jens Stoltenberg, to approve the accession since the three countries signed a trilateral memorandum during a Nato summit in Madrid last June. The two Nordic countries agreed to address security concerns raised by Turkey, namely the presence of Kurdish organisations in Sweden that Ankara claims have links to the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which Turkey, the EU and Washington have designated a terrorist group.

Both Nordic nations lifted restrictions on weapons exports to Ankara, and Sweden amended its constitution to toughen domestic anti-terror laws.

Meanwhile, Turkey has pushed for Sweden to extradite a list of people it claims have links to either the PKK or the banned cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016, including a journalist whose extradition was recently blocked by a Swedish court.

The Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, told a domestic security conference earlier this month that Stockholm would be unable to meet all of Turkey’s demands. “Turkey confirms that we have done what we said we would do. But they also say that they want things that we can’t and won’t give them. So the decision is now with Turkey,” he said.

Kalın disagreed. “In principle, of course, we would like to see them in Nato provided that they fulfil the conditions that we agreed,” he said.

“Finland and Sweden have delivered on their commitment to Turkey,” Stoltenberg told a press conference last November, after talks with the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. “It’s time to welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of Nato.”


Ruth Michaelson

The GuardianTramp

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