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Sweden still not ready for NATO, Erdoğan tells Biden

Sweden still not ready for NATO, Erdoğan tells Biden

by host

Ankara hasn’t seen sufficient progress from Sweden to support its application to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned U.S. President Joe Biden in a phone call Sunday ahead of a summit of NATO leaders this week.

“Erdoğan stated that Sweden has taken some steps in the right direction by making changes in the anti-terrorism legislation,” Turkey’s communications directorate said in a statement following the bilateral call.

But the supporters of “terrorist organizations” — pro-Kurdish groups including the PKK and YPG, which are banned in Turkey — continue to hold demonstrations in Sweden, the statement said. “This nullifies the steps taken,” it said.

The call comes ahead of a two-day summit of NATO leaders in Lithuania that starts on Tuesday. Biden has thrown his support behind a push to get a deal done on Sweden at the meeting in Vilnius.

Erdoğan’s administration has been blocking Sweden’s hopes of joining the defense alliance, accusing Stockholm of backing Kurdish separatism. While it had initially accused Finland of doing the same, Erdoğan later gave the green light on Helsinki’s application and the country became a NATO member in April.

Biden and Erdoğan also discussed the sale of U.S. F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in the call, with the Turkish president “noting that it is not correct to associate” Ankara’s request for F-16 aircraft with Sweden’s NATO membership bid, according to the statement.

On the call, Erdoğan also brought up Turkey’s “desire to revive the EU membership process,” according to the statement. The Turkish president said he would like to see EU member states send a “clear and strong message” in support of its EU bid at the NATO summit in Lithuania.

While Turkey became a candidate for full membership of the EU in 1999, talks have effectively stalled over the past decade. The country has not committed to making the reforms required to meet the criteria set out by Brussels.

Erdoğan and Biden agreed to meet face-to-face in Vilnius and discuss Turkey-U.S. bilateral relations and regional issues in detail, according to the Turkish statement.

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