U.S. looking ahead to Sweden evolving NATO associate before July summit

June 19, 2023: The U.S. is still hoping that Sweden will join NATO before July despite Turkey’s apprehensions, Ambassador to Ankara Jeffry Flake said.

“We hope Sweden can become a member of NATO soon,” Flake told CNBC’s Dan Murphy Friday, adding that Sweden has taken several measures to address Turkey’s security concerns.

“We fully hope that by the time Vilnius comes, Sweden will be a member.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebuffed mounting international arm-twisting to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership bid on Wednesday before the defense alliance convenes for the 2023 Vilnius summit of July 11-12.

Officials from Sweden, Turkey, Finland, and NATO had convened in Ankara with longings to ease Turkey’s objections.

“Sweden has anticipations. It doesn’t mean we will comply with them,” Erdogan said, according to the Turkish state-run outlet Anadolu. Turkey, Finland, and Sweden had last year inked an agreement on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, reserving to address Turkey’s security needs.

Ankara’s objections are complex but center mainly on Sweden’s support for Kurdish groups that Turkey believes are terrorists and on weapons embargoes that Sweden and Finland, along with other E.U. countries, put on Turkey for targeting Kurdish militias in Syria.

Erdogan also wants Sweden to crack down on protests against his government. For months, Sweden’s capital has seen protests against Turkey, which at the start of the year led to some demonstrators’ heavily criticized burning of the holy Muslim book Quran.

“For us to comply with these expectations, first of all, Sweden must do its part,” Erdogan said.

Before the current elections in May, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson in March said that Ankara has “left the door open” to Stockholm’s bid to be a part of the military alliance “if it shows will and determination.”

On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden met with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, highlighting their “shared desire to welcome Sweden to the Alliance as soon as possible,” a White House statement said.

“Our relationship is grounded in NATO. I think it will continue to be so,” Flake said of U.S.-Turkey relations, highlighting both parties’ security and commercial partnership.

“On the commercial side, we’ve got a healthy balance trade, about 33 billion as of last year. That’s growing every year,” he said.

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