ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he would back Sweden’s NATO candidacy if the European Union resumes long-stalled membership talks with Ankara.
The latest twist in the long-running saga over Sweden’s attempts to win Erdogan’s backing came on the eve of a NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius at which Western leaders want to showcase unity in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Erdogan is due to meet later Monday in Vilnius with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
The Turkish leader said the same leaders who were blocking Turkey’s EU membership wanted him to back Sweden’s NATO candidacy.
“Almost all the NATO members are EU members. I now am addressing these countries, which are making Turkey wait for more than 50 years, and I will address them again in Vilnius,” Erdogan told a televised media appearance.
“First, open the way to Turkey’s membership of the European Union, and then we will open it for Sweden, just as we had opened it for Finland.”
Erdogan added that “this is what I told” US President Joe Biden when the two leaders spoke by phone Sunday.
‘Not an ordinary country’
Turkey first applied to be a member of the European Economic Community — a predecessor to the EU — in 1987.
It became an EU candidate country in 1999 and formally launched membership negotiations with the bloc in 2005.
The talks stalled in 2016 over European concerns about Turkish human rights violations.
“I would like to underline one reality. Turkey has been waiting at the EU’s front door for 50 years,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan added that he would repeat the same demand in Vilnius.
“I have to make this statement in Vilnius because this is what I believe,” he said. “Our nation has expectations. We can not deal with these expectations any longer. It has been more than 50 years now. We are Turkey and not an ordinary country.”
Erdogan had previously voiced frustrations with what he calls Sweden’s failure to keep its promise to deal with suspected Kurdish militants allegedly “roaming the streets” of Stockholm.
He mentioned this only briefly in his remarks on Monday.
“We want the promises given to us to be kept and our determination on this is the same,” he said. –AFP