President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rebuffed growing international pressure on Turkey to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid before the military alliance meets in July.
Western officials had hoped Erdogan would soften his position on the diplomatically charged issue after he secured a hard-fought re-election last month.
But Erdogan signalled no major shift in comments on Wednesday released by his office while Turkish and Swedish officials were locked in last-minute negotiations in Ankara.
“Sweden has expectations. It doesn’t mean that we will comply with them,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
Sweden and Finland applied for membership together after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, marking a dramatic pivot after decades of military neutrality. Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April after the Turkish parliament ratified its request, but Turkey has held off on approving Sweden’s bid.
NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time the leaders of its member nations meet for a summit in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, on July 11-12.
The officials in Ankara discussed what Finland and Sweden have done to address Turkey’s concerns over what it calls “terrorist” groups and their supporters living in the Nordic nations. Erdogan said earlier that the Turkish delegation at the meeting gave the message: “Don’t expect anything different at Vilnius.”
Sweden’s chief negotiator said on Wednesday that Turkey and Sweden will continue their discussions but added there was no specific date.
“It’s my job to persuade our counterpart that we have done enough. I think we have,” Oscar Stenstrom said. “But Turkey is not ready to make a decision yet and thinks that they need to have more answers to the questions they have.”