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Fidan: Turkey committed to 'understandings' on Sweden’s NATO bid

Fidan’s remarks came a few days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised question marks over his country’s pending ratification of the Sweden’s accession to NATO.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan attends a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart following their talks in Moscow on August 31, 2023. (Photo by MAXIM SHEMETOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MAXIM SHEMETOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA —  Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Wednesday that his country remains committed to understandings it reached with NATO and Sweden over Stockholm's membership bid which is pending Turkey's and Hungary's ratification.

Speaking alongside with his British counterpart James Cleverly, who started a two-day visit to Turkey on Wednesday, Fidan recommitted to the understandings that Turkey and Sweden agreed to on the sidelines of the two NATO summits in Madrid last year, and in Vilnius in July. 

“The road maps drafted there, the expectations from the parties, and the obligations are clear,” Fidan told journalists. “The process is progressing within this framework.”

Fidan’s comment comes a few days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added fresh uncertainty around Sweden’s pending NATO bid, saying it was for the Turkish parliament, not him, to decide.

Following his chat  with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Erdogan said Sunday that the Biden administration was linking Ankara’s request to buy new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from the United States to Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s accession, which was "seriously upsetting" Ankara. 

Dropping his country’s reservations after a year, Erdogan greenlighted the Swedish bid last July on the sidelines of NATO’s summit in Vilnius under a trilateral statement between Turkey, Sweden and the alliance. Under the statement, Stockholm pledged closer cooperation with Ankara on the fight against terrorism and support for Turkey’s now-stalled EU membership talks. 

However, Erdogan then postponed the ratification process to October, when the Turkish Parliament will return from the summer recess.

Speaking on Wednesday, Cleverly said his country understood Turkey’s concerns over terrorism but stressed the importance of Sweden’s accession to NATO “as soon as possible.”

“We believe that Sweden will make a significant contribution to NATO,” Cleverly said through a translator, adding that his country would continue its efforts to facilitate the process. 

Stockholm amended its constitution and counterterrorism laws to address Ankara's concerns. Yet Turkey still demands that Sweden  extradite or deport dozens of Kurds for alleged links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been fighting the Turkish state for nearly 40 years. Turkey, the United States and European Union consider PKK a terrorist organization. 

The ties between Ankara and Stockholm have been strained since the Vilnius summit over a series of Quran-burning protests and demonstrations by Kurdish activists. Sweden is home to a large Kurdish minority.

Turkey also expects its ratification of the Swedish accession would help overcome Congressional objections against its bid to purchase new F-16s and modernization kits from the United States. The Biden administration supports the sale, but House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees have the power to block it.

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