STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Turkey’s parliament should begin to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO because Stockholm has now met its obligations under an accord with Ankara on joining the Western military alliance, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Wednesday.
Last year Sweden and Finland both reversed decades of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland joined NATO in April but Turkey continues to block Sweden’s membership citing security concerns. This month Ankara said Sweden must crack down on anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm before it can receive the green light to join NATO.
“Our judgement is that we have done what was expected of us, now it is time for the Turkish parliament to start the ratification process,” Billstrom told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting in parliament.
Billstrom said Sweden remains hopeful that it will be able to join by the time of NATO’s summit in Vilnius in mid-July, adding that it had no “Plan B”.
Turkey says Sweden harbours members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Sweden recently introduced a new law to make it harder to finance or support terrorist groups, which the government says completes its commitments under an agreement with Turkey signed in Madrid.
Ankara remains unconvinced.
In recent months, demonstrators in Stockholm have hung an effigy of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan from a lamp-post in Stockholm. At other events, demonstrators have waved flags showing support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
Billstrom said the freedom to demonstrate was “enshrined in the constitution”. “But we have also said that something that is legal is not always proper,” he added.
Hungary has also still to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid.
(Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Simon JohnsonEditing by Gareth Jones)
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