Sweden’s foreign minister says the country is nearing approval for NATO membership

Sweden’s foreign minister says his country is moving closer to having its NATO application ratified by one of the last remnants of the military alliance.

Twenty-eight of the 30 current NATO members have ratified membership applications from both Sweden and Finland since the two Scandinavian countries submitted formal applications in May. Canada was the first to ratify the requests.

But Turkey – along with Hungary – has yet to approve the bids. The Turkish government has said that Sweden in particular should crack down on Kurdish and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists.

New NATO memberships must be approved by all current member states.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told CBC News Network Rosemary Barton Live in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the bottlenecks with Turkey are almost resolved.

LOOK | Swedish foreign minister discusses NATO bid:

Sweden, Finland NATO ratification held back by approvals from Turkey and Hungary

Rosemary Barton Live speaks with Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström in his first Canadian interview about the NATO ratification process in Sweden and Finland. Their entry into the military alliance is currently held back by approval from Turkey and Hungary.

“We are now very close to the time when it is time for the Turkish parliament to start the ratification process,” Billström told host Rosemary Barton.

Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed a trilateral memorandum at the NATO summit in June outlining the way for the Turkish government to sign the two applications.

Billström said his country has “thoroughly” complied with its part of that agreement, but noted that its provisions must be in line with Sweden’s constitution following Turkey’s recent pushback.

Pro-Kurdish and anti-NATO groups have complicated matters for the Swedish government by organizing anti-Turkey demonstrations that have enraged the Turkish government, including an image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan standing outside the city hall earlier this month. Stockholm was hanged.

The Turkish government has called for an investigation into the protest as it amounted to racism and a hate crime. Prosecutors in Sweden have so far said they will not open an investigation.

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On Saturday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar canceled a visit by his Swedish counterpart scheduled for later this month, citing what he described as “disgusting” anti-Turkish demonstrations in Sweden.

The meeting no longer had “any significance or point,” Akar said.

NATO requests a response to Russia’s war against Ukraine

Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of non-alignment and applied to join NATO after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The reason why we are so eager to participate is because of the deteriorating security situation in our neighborhood,” said Billström.

Dan Rice, a US military expert who currently serves as a special adviser to the head of the Ukrainian armed forces, said providing security to the region is precisely why NATO was originally created.

“I think it’s an excellent and great example of NATO working together to finally fulfill the mission for which it was created in 1949,” Rice said. Rosemary Barton Live in a separate interview airing Sunday.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told CBC News Network Power & Politics on Thursday that Russia’s invasion has strengthened NATO.

“Vladimir Putin hoped to break NATO as a defensive alliance, but what we have seen instead is NATO coming together and two new countries applying to join NATO as a direct response to the attempt by Russia to invade Ukraine,” he said.

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