Sweden and Finland can be ratified as NATO member states at different stages, the Swedish prime minister said.
“It is not out of the question that Sweden and Finland will be ratified in different stages,” Ulf Kristersson said at a news conference on NATO membership application of his country on Tuesday, the Swedish media reported.
Kristersson said what he and Oscar Stenstrom, Sweden’s chief negotiator for NATO accession talks, “have encountered in recent weeks is that the probability that this will happen at different rates has increased.”
He said Sweden is “prepared for what we will do if that were to happen”.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022.
The Swedish premier’s remarks came after an anti-terror legislation – that was scheduled to pass last Thursday – was postponed to May 3.
The new counter-terrorism bill is aimed to target the financing, aiding and propagation of terrorist groups, a key demand by Ankara.
To approve their NATO membership bids, Ankara demands the two Nordic countries to take concrete actions to combat terrorist groups PKK and Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye.
However, Sweden is seen as not doing enough to gain Türkiye’s approval.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently said that since the signing of a trilateral memorandum in NATO Madrid summit in June 2022, “there has not been any satisfying steps taken by Sweden”.
“There are pledges (by Sweden and Finland) for NATO membership. It is not possible for us to say ‘yes’ to Sweden’s NATO membership bid without seeing these steps,” he said.
Cavusoglu also said the NATO bids of the two Nordic countries can be assessed separately, as Türkiye is more positive towards Finland’s process.
While Türkiye was unsatisfied with the vague approach of Sweden, Ankara postponed a trilateral meeting after Swedish authorities allowed a Danish far-right politician to burn a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on January 21.
The talks then restarted with a foreign ministerial-level meeting in Brussels last Thursday.
Stockholm reiterated its determination to take the steps required under the trilateral memorandum.
In the face of criticism, Stenstrom recently told Anadolu that Sweden’s stance on terrorism is no longer the same.
“Yes, we have changed. And we have realized better the security concerns of Türkiye. This will also improve the security of Sweden. Sweden should and will never be a safe haven for any terrorist, and that’s why we’re also increasing our cooperation between our security services.
We’re dedicating more funds to these services and defense. We will be happy to cooperate together in NATO,” Stenstrom said.
Türkiye has provided a list of wanted individuals to Sweden and is expecting the Scandinavian nation to take a swift action to show that its demands are being truly realized. However, none of the convicts has been handed over to Türkiye yet.