NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Thursday, February 16, 2023, said "the time is now" for Turkey to ratify Finland's and Sweden's applications to join the defense alliance.
Stoltenberg was speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock this week said she expected all NATO members to ratify
Finland and Sweden applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February and their applications for membership have been ratified by all allies except Hungary and Turkey.
Turkey is widely seen as a major obstacle, with President Tayyip Erdogan indicating his country could ratify Finland's application and not Sweden's.
Turkey says Sweden hosts members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey, the European Union and others consider a terrorist group.
last month Turkey suspended talks with Sweden and Finland about their appeal after a protest, in which Rasmus Paludan, leader of Hard Line, a right-wing political party, burned a Koran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Stoltenberg described the Koran-burning protests as a "despicable act" and said the Swedish government had shown a strong attitude towards the protests that should be commended.
To me, this just shows that Sweden and Finland understand and are implementing policies that acknowledge Turkey's expressed concerns. And this is why I think it's time to ratify it," he said.
Cavusoglu reiterated Turkey's position that it can evaluate Finland's and Sweden's applications to join NATO separately. While acknowledging that Sweden had amended its law on terrorism in line with Turkey's demands, Cavusoglu said the changes must be fully implemented.
Stoltenberg, who later met Erdogan in Ankara before leaving for southern Turkey to visit quake-hit areas, said the fight against terrorism would be high on the agenda at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.