NATO enlargement: Stoltenberg evokes “progress” with Turkey for Sweden’s membership

Finalizing the entry of the two Nordic countries is “a top priority, and we are making progress”, said the head of NATO, visiting Sweden until Wednesday, during a press conference with the Prime Minister Swedish Ulf Kristersson.

Sweden, which concentrates the Turkish objections, “kept its commitments” made last June in Madrid vis-à-vis Ankara and “the time has come to finalize the process of ratification”, he again insisted.

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Of the 30 members of the alliance, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the two new entries, but their green light is essential.

Following a diplomatic crisis caused by the burning of a Koran by an anti-Islamic right-wing extremist in Stockholm in early January, Ankara had suspended the already complicated negotiations.

The discussions will finally resume this Thursday in Brussels, as announced by Turkey at the end of February.

“I recently met with Turkish President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, and I’m glad he agreed to resume trilateral meetings” with Sweden and Finland, Stoltenberg said.

As for Hungary, whose promise to ratify has raised concerns due to numerous delays in recent months, the debate began last week in the national parliament.

“I expect the process to be completed quickly,” said NATO’s Secretary General. “The question is not if” Sweden will enter the alliance, “but when”, he assured.

The Swedish Prime Minister announced a vote by Parliament to validate entry into the alliance in advance.

Earlier on Tuesday, a delegation of Hungarian parliamentarians paid a visit to Stockholm.

Budapest supports Sweden’s NATO membership, but Swedish politicians must stop spreading ‘lies’ about Hungary including ‘unfounded’ criticism of its breaches of the rule of law, its leader said on Tuesday Csaba Hende, member of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party.

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