ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey mentioned on Monday that the European Union ought to open the way in which for Turkey to affix the bloc earlier than Turkey permits Sweden to affix NATO, including a shocking new situation that might additional stall the army alliance’s efforts to increase.
Mr. Erdogan’s newest demand got here a day earlier than the opening of NATO’s two-day annual summit, the place leaders, together with President Biden, had hoped to safe unanimous approval from member states to allow Sweden to become the 32nd member.
That end result now seems more and more unlikely, with Mr. Erdogan posing the principle impediment to Sweden’s membership.
“First, clear the way in which for Turkey within the European Union, then we are going to clear the way in which for Sweden as we did for Finland,” Mr. Erdogan instructed reporters earlier than touring to the NATO summit.
Leaders of the European Union and NATO member states are usually not prone to reply positively, since they’re separate organizations which have many overlapping members however completely completely different functions. Turkey utilized to affix the European Union in 1987, however there was scarcely any progress in its bid since 2016, when the European Parliament voted to suspend accession talks whereas criticizing an enormous Turkish authorities crackdown on political opponents after a failed coup in opposition to Mr. Erdogan.
NATO’s secretary common, Jens Stoltenberg, mentioned on Monday that he helps Turkey’s ambition to affix the European Union, however that it was not among the many circumstances set by officers from Turkey, Sweden and Finland final 12 months at a NATO summit in Madrid.
“We have to do not forget that what we agreed in Madrid was a particular record of circumstances that Sweden has to fulfill to be a full member of the alliance, and Sweden has met these circumstances,” Mr. Stoltenberg instructed reporters in Lithuania.
Sweden utilized to affix NATO final 12 months, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All NATO nations should conform to admit new members, a rule that has given Mr. Erdogan super leverage to demand concessions.
Turkey has accused Sweden of offering a permissive atmosphere for dissidents whom Turkey considers terrorists, together with pro-Kurdish activists and members of a spiritual group that Turkey has accused of planning the 2016 coup try.
In latest months, Sweden has made efforts to fulfill Turkey’s calls for, amending its structure, passing new counterterrorism laws and agreeing to extradite a number of Turks who stand accused of crimes in Turkey. However Swedish courts have blocked different extraditions, and Swedish officers have mentioned that they can’t override their nation’s free-speech protections.
Mr. Erdogan has continued to say that Sweden should do extra.
A brand new complication arose late final month after a person publicly burned a Quran at a protest in Stockholm on a significant Muslim vacation. Mr. Erdogan criticized Sweden for allowing the protest and mentioned that the Swedish authorities wanted to struggle Islamophobia, regardless that that had not been among the many points Sweden had agreed with Turkey to handle.
Hungary is the one different NATO member that has but to approve Sweden’s bid, however Hungarian officers have mentioned that if Turkey’s place adjustments, they might not hinder the method. Finland utilized similtaneously Sweden, however overcame Turkey’s preliminary objections and joined the alliance in April.
By linking Turkey’s drive to affix the European Union with Sweden’s becoming a member of NATO, Mr. Erdogan threw one other wrench into the alliance’s negotiations lower than 24 hours earlier than NATO leaders are anticipated to convene in Vilnius, Lithuania, for his or her annual summit. On Sunday, President Biden spoke with Mr. Erdogan and instructed him of “his want to welcome Sweden into NATO as quickly as potential,” in accordance with a terse account of the decision provided by the White House.
Earlier than touring to the summit, Mr. Erdogan mentioned once more on Monday that Sweden couldn’t anticipate to affix till it had met all of Turkey’s calls for with respect to terrorism.
“No one ought to anticipate compromise nor understanding from me,” he mentioned.
Gulsin Harman contributed reporting.