By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden showed support for Sweden joining NATO in talks with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Wednesday, as doubts remain whether Turkey will withdraw its opposition in time for the summit. military alliance next week.
Biden sets off Sunday on a three-nation trip centered around the Vilnius, Lithuania summit where alliance members hope to welcome Sweden as a new member.
Biden, seated next to Kristersson in the Oval Office with reporters in attendance, said he “looked forward to your joining” NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Alliance).
Kristersson said after the meeting that the two leaders agreed the meeting in Vilnius was a “natural moment” to finalize the Nordic country’s bid to join the alliance.
“But we also both know that only Turkey can make Turkish decisions,” Kristersson told reporters at the Swedish embassy in Washington.
Biden “praised Sweden’s role as a regional security provider and underlined his commitment to welcoming Sweden into NATO as soon as possible,” according to a reading of their White House conversation.
Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year, abandoning longstanding military non-alignment policies that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Applications for membership must be approved by all NATO members. Türkiye and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden’s offer. Finland was approved in April.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says Stockholm is home to members of militant groups, particularly supporters of Sweden’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which he accuses of organizing demonstrations and funding terrorist groups.
The United States and its allies have worked to overcome Turkey’s opposition. Sweden has said it has met demands agreed in negotiations with Turkey, including introducing a new bill making it illegal to belong to a terrorist organization, but Erdogan has yet to signal he is ready to ratify the demand. of Sweden.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Wednesday and encouraged Turkey’s support for Sweden to join the NATO military alliance, the State Department said in a statement.
“Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of NATO unity at such a critical time and encouraged Turkiye’s support for Sweden to join the NATO Alliance now,” the State Department said.
Sweden, Turkey and NATO will meet on Thursday in Brussels to try to find a solution before the July 11-12 summit.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander and Niklas Pollard in Stockholm and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles Editing by Alistair Bell, Grant McCool and David Gregorio)