UPDATE - Türkiye can't approve Sweden's NATO bid if Stockholm doesn't fulfill pledges

UPDATE - Türkiye can't approve Sweden's NATO bid if Stockholm doesn't fulfill pledges

NATO bids of Nordic countries can be assessed separately, as Türkiye is more positive towards Finland's process, says Foreign Minister Cavusoglu

UPDATES WITH QUOTES FROM TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SZIJJARTO

By Merve Aydogan

ANKARA (AA) - Türkiye on Monday reminded the pledges of Sweden and Finland for their NATO accession bids, saying it is impossible to approve Sweden's bid "without seeing steps taken."

"With regards to the membership of Finland and Sweden, the position of Türkiye is clear and transparent," said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a joint news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who arrived in Ankara for solidarity visit following the earthquakes that occurred on Feb. 6.

Reminding that terrorism is one of the two main threats for NATO, Cavusoglu said Türkiye expects two Nordic countries to meet Ankara's concerns regarding fight against terrorism.

Since the signing of the trilateral memorandum in NATO Madrid Summit in June 2022, Cavusoglu said "there has not been any satisfying steps taken by Sweden."

Noting the "determined" stance of the new Swedish government, the Turkish minister also said Sweden has made "amendments to its constitution and some laws, especially the anti-terrorism laws."

"The purpose of this amendment, as clearly stated in the memorandum of understanding, is to stop illegal acts such as financing terrorism, recruiting people for a terrorist organization and terrorist propaganda," he said, adding that such terrorist activities still continue in Sweden.

He emphasized that it is not only regarding the incident of burning of copies of the holy Quran and noted that such incident was not only unacceptable but also "an act against humanity."

Cavusoglu urged the international community to fight against such acts.

"There are pledges (by Sweden and Finland) to NATO membership. It is not possible for us to say 'yes' to Sweden's NATO membership without seeing these steps," he said.

He also said the NATO bids of the two Nordic countries can be assessed separately, as Türkiye is more positive towards Finland's process.

Cavusoglu reminded of the mechanism established among Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland, and said it is beneficial for 3rd meeting of mechanism to be held in Brussels.

The 3rd round of the mechanism's meeting is to be held "on March 9," according to the Turkish minister.

"Everyone should see clearly that Sweden, particularly, is not fulfilling its obligations. That's the reason why we said 'yes' for the meeting to be held in Brussels," he added.

Pointing out that this mechanism is not for negotiations, Cavusoglu reminded that it was established to see and understand whether the trilateral memorandum is being implemented.

The first meeting of the Permanent Joint Mechanism established under the memorandum was held on Aug. 26, 2022 in Vantaa, Finland, while the second meeting on Nov. 26, 2022 in Stockholm.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, 2022.

But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye.

Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.

In the memorandum, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to the YPG/PYD and FETO, to prevent all activities of the terror groups, the extradition of terror suspects, to introduce new legislation to punish terrorist crimes, and not to implement national arms embargoes among the three countries.

Separately, Cavusoglu hailed the ties between Türkiye and Hungary, as he thanked his Hungarian counterpart for the solidarity and the aid provided to earthquake-hit country.

Saying that Hungary sent search and rescue teams consisting of 167 personnel to Türkiye, and that their first team reached the region within the first 22 hours of the earthquake and rescued 35 people from the rubble in southern provinces of Kahramanmaras and Hatay.

He also emphasized that there are historical strong ties between Türkiye and Hungary and that the two countries are working to increase relations to strategic partnership level.

For his part, Hungary's Szijjarto expressed his condolences to Türkiye and its people over the deadly earthquakes, as he said that no one could be prepared for such disaster.

"Türkiye is a friend of Hungary. We will stand with our friends as they are in trouble, and we will continue to stand by them for their re-normalization in the future," he added.

Szijjarto also commented on Türkiye's role in the security of energy supply and said: "Türkiye provides a large part of Hungary's natural gas supply in transit. Our future natural gas diversification plans cannot be without Türkiye as the natural gas purchase from Azerbaijan is possible only by transiting to Central Europe via Türkiye."

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