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Sweden and Finland discuss NATO accession with Turkey

March 9, 2023

Representatives of Sweden, Finland and Turkey are meeting in Brussels to discuss the Nordic countries' NATO accession. Meanwhile, Sweden, which seeks Ankara's support, is tightening the security law.

Flags of Sweden and Finland, NATO logo
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022Image: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/picture alliance

A second round of "trilateral" talks between Turkey, Sweden and Finland on the Nordic neighbors' accession to NATO began on Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Although the talks are formally between the three countries, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg helped broker the meeting.

"This is a process, and I don't expect the process to be concluded" with one round of talks, Stoltenberg said on the eve of the meeting, "but I am confident that Finland and Sweden will become NATO allies. This is a top priority."

Turkey recongnizes concrete steps

After the talks, Sweden's chief negotiator said that Ankara said during the meeting that it recognized "concrete" steps taken in Helsinki and Stockholm. 

"We see that Turkey recognized that both Sweden and Finland have taken concrete steps in this agreement, which is a good sign," chief negotiator Oscar Stenstrom told a news conference. He also said that the three countries would hold further meetings, but that no date had been set.

Turkey is blocking Sweden's NATO entry, accusing the Swedish government of being too soft on groups Ankara sees as terrorist organizations or existential threats, including Kurdish groups.

Will Sweden bow to Turkey's demands on Kurds to join NATO?

Sweden stiffens anti-terrorism laws

Meanwhile, the Swedish government presented a draft to tighten anti-terror legislation on Thursday. Under the new rules, involvement in a terrorist organization or financing such involvement is punishable by several years in prison.

Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said they would close a loophole in the current legislation. The Swedish parliament has yet to approve the measures, which are scheduled to come into force on June 1 this year.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has described the proposed law as an important step in fulfilling the commitments Sweden made in an agreement with Turkey and Finland at the end of June last year.

Hard way to NATO

Fearing that they would be next targeted after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Finland and Sweden abandoned their traditional position of military non-alignment and applied for NATO membership in May 2022.

All 30 Allies have signed the accession protocols of Finland and Sweden, and 28 have already ratified these texts. However, Turkey and Hungary have sought guarantees and assurances from the two Nordic countries. The parliaments of all existing NATO members must approve their accession by majority vote.

The first round of talks between Turkey, Sweden and Finland failed to break the deadlock. Ankara in January paused talks after a Danish politician burned a copy of the Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government has since hinted several times that it might make a decision on Finland before reaching one for Sweden

dh/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)