ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he would try to facilitate the parliamentary ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership as much as possible, but added that Stockhom had still not taken sufficient action on Kurdish militants.
Erdogan submitted a bill approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification last month, a move welcomed by the alliance and Stockholm. Turkey had initially raised objections due to what it said was Sweden’s harbouring of groups it deems terrorist.
Speaking to reporters on a return flight from Kazakhstan on Friday, Erdogan said Stockholm had taken some steps regarding protests organised by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and also concerning arms embargoes on Turkey, but not on the activities of the PKK in Sweden.
“Our duty was to submit this to parliament in the first stage, we did that,” broadcaster Haberturk quoted him on Saturday as having told the reporters on his plane.
Erdogan also said planned talks in parliament about Turkey’s 2024 state budget would now take priority, suggesting that the approval of Sweden’s NATO membership might not be rapid.
“But we will try to facilitate the work (on ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid) as much as possible. We will try to show positive efforts as much as we can at this point, so long as our counterparts approach us positively.”
The bill must be approved by parliament’s foreign affairs committee before a vote by the full general assembly. Erdogan would then sign it into law.
Long-neutral Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year to bolster their security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s membership was sealed in April, but Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; editing by Jason Neely and Gareth Jones)