News2023.06.01 13:45

Lithuanian FM insists Turkey should endorse Sweden’s NATO membership

Paulius Perminas, BNS 2023.06.01 13:45

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis insists Turkey should relent on its opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership, since it is a matter of security for the Baltic countries, one of the most vulnerable regions of the alliance.

“We are talking about not just Sweden’s security, not just Scandinavia’s security, but also about the Baltic region, which wants to be more safe and secure. We are probably one of the most vulnerable regions in Europe therefore we expect understanding because we also share understanding when it comes to Turkey’s security woes,” he told reporters at the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo on Thursday.

Landsbergis said he was not surprised that there had been a “technical delay” in ratifying Sweden’s accession documents after last weekend’s presidential election in Turkey. Still, he reiterated, Swedish membership is a key to the success of the NATO summit to be held in Vilnius in July.

Last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland reversed their decades-long policy of staying out of military alliances and applied to join NATO.

However, Turkey has used its leverage to push the two countries over the presence of Kurdish militants, letting Finland join NATO in April but still blocking Sweden.

Turkey should soon decide on Sweden’s bid to join NATO. In addition to Ankara, Sweden’s accession has not yet been ratified by Hungary, despite calls from other member states, including the United States, for both countries to resolve the issue.

Turkey has been angered by Stockholm’s refusal to extradite dozens of individuals that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who won last week’s presidential election, insists are linked to the failed 2016 coup attempt and the decades-long Kurdish struggle for independence.

Meanwhile, Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán has been displeased by concerns about the rule of law in Hungary expressed by Sweden.

Some political analysts believe that the United States may pressure Ankara to change its stance on Swedish membership.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo on Thursday that he would soon travel to Ankara to press for Sweden’s membership in the alliance following Erdoğan’s re-election.

Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström insisted that Stockholm had fulfilled all its obligations to join NATO and called on Turkey and Hungary to allow his country to join the alliance.

Lithuania’s Landsbergis also told reporters in Oslo that the informal meeting would discuss Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of NATO and the alliance’s long-term practical and political support to the country.

“For fourteen years, Ukraine has waited for an answer from NATO and has not received it yet, despite enduring two invasions during that time, and I think it is high time that we actually sit down and find a very specific and very concrete answer as to how Ukraine is going to move closer to NATO and one day become a member of the alliance,” the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

“If we don’t talk about it now, it will not be fair to a country that has been seeking membership for a long time,” he added.

Representatives from 31 NATO member states and Sweden are meeting in Oslo.

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