NATO chief convenes July 6 talks hoping to convince Turkiye to let Sweden join

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday he has called a meeting of senior officials from Turkiye, Sweden and Finland on July 6 to try to overcome Turkish objections to Sweden joining the military organization.

Hungarian lawmakers, meanwhile, said a long-delayed vote in parliament on ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession bid would not happen until the autumn legislative session. That would almost certainly mean the Nordic nation will not join in time for a major July 11-12 summit.

The July 6 pre-summit meeting is a last-ditch effort by Stoltenberg to have the Nordic country standing among NATO’s ranks as a member. It would be a highly symbolic moment and another indication of how Russia’s war in Ukraine is driving countries to join the Western alliance.

“The time is now to welcome Sweden as a full member of NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters as he announced the date for the meeting. Foreign ministers, intelligence chiefs and security advisers from Turkiye, Sweden and Finland, which joined NATO in April, will be taking part in the talks in Brussels.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of all members to expand. Turkiye accuses Sweden of being too lenient on groups that Ankara says pose a security threat, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.

Fearing they might be targeted by Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella.

Hungary is also delaying its approval of Sweden’s candidacy but has never clearly stated publicly what its concerns are. NATO officials expect that it will follow suit once Turkiye lifts its objections.

In a Facebook post, Agnes Vadai, a lawmaker with Hungary’s opposition Democratic Coalition party, wrote that Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his governing Fidesz party would not schedule a vote on Sweden’s accession during its final spring session next week.

Another lawmaker from the Democratic Coalition also confirmed that the vote would be delayed.

The postponement is the latest in a long succession of delays that have gone on for a year, with high-ranking Hungarian officials saying they support Sweden’s membership while also making vague demands from Stockholm as a condition for approval.

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