Brussels, Oct 12 (EFE).- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hoped Thursday that the Turkish government will bring the protocol for Sweden to join the Atlantic Alliance before its parliament and can ratify it “quickly” so that Stockholm can become a full member of the organization.
“I now expect the Turkish government to present the accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly” and work with that institution to “ensure a rapid ratification,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference at the end of a meeting of allied defense ministers.
The Norwegian politician said he raised with the ministers “the need to move forward with the ratification of Swedish membership.”
“I am glad that the Turkish Defense Minister (Yaşar Güler) confirmed that Turkey respects the Vilnius agreement to finalize Swedish membership,” he expounded.
Hungary and Turkey are the only two NATO countries that have not yet ratified Sweden’s accession to the alliance.
In late September, Turkey’s conservative Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the Turkish parliament will approve Sweden’s NATO membership only if the United States “keeps its promises.”
Asked whether he was referring to the sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, a deal that has been blocked for years by the US Congress, Erdogan said that “both Sweden and Canada and the United States link the two issues.”
In the past, the Turkish president has insisted that Sweden must limit public expressions of support for Kurdish guerrillas, extradite wanted persons in Turkey, and, most recently, curb acts of Quran burning while refusing to link the sale of F-16 fighters to the issue.
Turkey lifted its veto on Sweden’s accession to the alliance a day before the NATO leaders’ summit in Vilnius last July.
This Thursday, the Allied secretary general said the transatlantic organization’s defense ministers expressed “strong support for a swift ratification” of Swedish membership.
Although the Nordic country is not yet a full NATO member, Stoltenberg stressed that it is already “highly integrated” into the alliance politically and militarily.
NATO ministers also discussed the allied mission in Kosovo (KFOR) on Thursday.
“In response to recent tensions in Kosovo, NATO has deployed hundreds of additional reserve forces to our KFOR operation in recent weeks. And we are patrolling more in northern Kosovo,” Stoltenberg commented.
He considered those to be “prudent steps” to ensure that the allied mission in Kosovo “has the forces it needs to fulfill its UN mandate impartially.”
“Belgrade and Pristina must behave responsibly, refrain from destabilizing actions, and re-engage in dialogue facilitated by the European Union. That is the only way to lasting peace in Kosovo,” he said.
As for Bosnia-Herzegovina, he assured that NATO continues to support the EU-led operation Althea, which “plays an important role in regional stability.”
Separately, Stoltenberg announced on Thursday that he had appointed Assistant Secretary-General for Operations Tom Goffus as his Special Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
“He will ensure that NATO’s response to terrorism remains strong, effective, and coherent,” Stoltenberg said of Goffus.
The allied secretary-general further noted that NATO will conduct its annual nuclear exercise next week.
He stressed that it is a “routine” exercise every year in October. He specified that 2023 will take place in Italy, Croatia, and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Our exercise will help ensure the credibility, effectiveness, and security of our nuclear deterrent,” he said. EFE