Negotiations between Sweden and Turkey regarding Sweden's bid to join NATO are set to resume on Wednesday after Stockholm recently extradited a PKK supporter to Turkey for the first time.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming July summit of the alliance in Vilnius, Lithuania, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson has said that his country has "strong support" for joining NATO. Sweden's application is expected to be a topic at the upcoming conference. A new secretary general is also expected to be appointed.
"We believe that there is strong support for our application, and we believe that it would be important for NATO that we become full members for the Vilnius Summit," Jonson said of the matter.
"The entire northern flank would be strengthened by Sweden also becoming a full member, which would increase the defensibility of Finland and the Baltic countries," he added.
Finland and Sweden initially sought membership with a joint bid, however, Finland was finally forced to be admitted separately as both Turkey and Hungary withheld approval from Sweden. All NATO member states must approve an applicant for the country to be granted membership into the alliance.
Jonson also reiterated that full NATO membership is Sweden's top priority while on an official visit to Japan. "The Swedish government's highest priority is to become a full-fledged member of NATO as soon as possible," the defense minister noted.
"We're hopeful that we can become it by the Vilnius Summit," he added.
He also highlighted Sweden's support for Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia saying, "We think the whole northern flag of NATO would be strengthened by Sweden being a full-fledged member into NATO."
Jonson also emphasized that it remains "strongly into our national interest because if Russia would win the war in Ukraine, it would have disastrous consequences for Sweden and Europe's security policy, its geostrategic location and military situation in Europe."
"So supporting Ukraine is key for us, and we will continue doing that, as long as it takes," the defense minister said, noting that its continued support of Ukraine would also strengthen Sweden's ties with the U.S.
Earlier talks between Sweden and Turkey stalled because Turkey said that Sweden was not doing enough to crack down on the large Kurdish community residing within its borders. Ankara has long accused Stockholm of harboring "terrorists."
In addition to extraditing a Kurd to Turkey to face drug charges for the first time, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also recently announced drastic updates to Stockholm's border policy, which will make them the strictest in Europe.
Turkey's stance on Sweden's application for full NATO membership has since begun to soften as a result of Stockholm's recent decisions. The question remains, however, whether or not Hungary will follow suit.
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