Erdogan Demands Clear Path For Turkey's EU Membership Before Sweden's NATO Candidacy

 Via The Cradle,

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told US President Joe Biden during a phone call on Sunday that his country has not seen enough progress from Sweden to support its bid to join NATO, coming just two days ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in Lithuania.

"Erdogan stated that Sweden has taken some steps in the right direction by making changes in the anti-terrorism legislation," the Turkish directorate of communications said in a statement following the call between the two presidents. 

However, "terrorist" supporters continue to hold protests in the country, Erdogan reportedly told Biden, referring to supporters of Kurdish groups such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its affiliates, outlawed in Turkey. 

"This nullifies the steps taken," the Turkish statement went on to say. These "steps" refer to requests by Ankara for Sweden to extradite members of Kurdish groups.

According to a statement released by the White House on Sunday, the two "discussed the range of issues that NATO leaders will consider at the summit, expressed their shared commitment to continue supporting Ukraine, and reviewed efforts to strengthen our bilateral ties. President Biden also conveyed his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible."

During a televised speech the following day, Erdogan suggested that the approval of EU membership for Turkey would pave the way for Sweden's NATO membership.

"First, open the way for Turkey's membership in the European Union, then we open it for Sweden, just as we opened the way for Finland," he said. 

On July 11 a NATO summit is scheduled to be held in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, during which Washington is reportedly planning to push for a deal to see Sweden’s swift ascension into the alliance. 

While Turkey had previously been blocking Finnish ascension to NATO as well, over accusations that Finland was harboring Kurdish militant sympathizers, its application was approved, and in April, Finland officially joined the alliance. 

However, Sweden’s Quran burnings have hindered the process, particularly the latest incident last month – which took place with Swedish police approval and sparked worldwide condemnation and protests in several countries. Ankara has recently doubled down on its position regarding the Quran burning. 

At the end of last month, Erdogan said – implying that Turkey will hold off on approving Sweden’s NATO bid – that Ankara will "put forward our reaction in the strongest possible way until there is a concerted effort to combat the enemies of Islam as well as terrorist organizations."

During the phone call, Biden and Erdogan reportedly discussed the sale of US F-16 jets to Turkey, which many have inferred would ease Sweden’s bid for NATO ascension. However, the Turkish president reportedly told Biden "That it is not correct to associate" the Turkish F-16 request with Sweden’s NATO membership. 

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