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Turkish-Swedish talks on NATO bid suspended over row with Ankara

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom (file photo by Reuters)

Sweden has canceled talks with Turkey on Stockholm’s bid for membership of NATO, of which Turkey is an old member, amid an escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Sweden needs Turkey's consent to join NATO; however, the NATO bid appears to be stumped after Ankara blasted Stockholm over recent anti-Ankara and anti-Islam protests in the country.

In this regard, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Saturday Stockholm had ended the discussions on its NATO membership. However, Billstrom said the Swedish government was investing its time and effort to move forward again and continued to hope the process could be completed in the summer, according to the newspaper Expressen. Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson had also expressed optimism in this regard a few days before.

Speaking at the annual Society and Defense Conference in Salen, Sweden, on January 8, Kristersson said Turkey was asking for too much from Stockholm over its NATO application. “Turkey both confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but they also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Kristersson said at the think-tank conference.

Finland and Sweden signed a three-way agreement with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara's objections to their membership of the organization. The two countries applied in May 2022 to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

Turkey, which has frequently voiced its agreement to NATO enlargement, blocked Sweden's membership, accusing the country of harboring militants, including from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Finland this week said for the first time it had to consider joining NATO without Sweden. In this regard, Kristersson said the demands that Sweden could not or did not want to fulfill were outside the scope of the three-way agreement.

Turkey recently said the Swedish government was complicit in the burning of the Holy Quran at a protest in Stockholm earlier this month.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed the Swedish government after police in the Swedish capital authorized the demonstration by right-wing politician Rasmus Paludan, and held it responsible for the burning of the Islamic holy book, according to state news agency Anadolu. The rally was held outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

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