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Swedish PM seeking approval from Turkey in country’s bid to join NATO

Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson vowed a firmer stance on fighting crime and terrorism during a visit to Turkey on Tuesday, where he will seek the approval of President Tayyip Erdogan for his country’s bid to join NATO.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But NATO member Turkey raised objections, citing security concerns related to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other groups present in Norway, as well as the Nordic states’ ban on arms exports.

The three countries signed a memorandum in June that lifted Turkey’s veto while requiring Sweden and Finland to address its remaining concerns.

“I think the new government will have an even firmer approach in (relation to) the NATO application from Sweden,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters in Ankara during a visit to the Turkish parliament.

One of this government’s main priorities is fighting crime, fighting organised crime, fighting the connection between organised crime and terrorism,” he said.

Mr Erdogan, who has previously accused Sweden of harbouring PKK militants, was set to host Kristersson at the presidential palace later on Tuesday.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Saturday his country’s new government would distance itself from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in its bid to win Turkey’s support for its NATO membership.

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Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Sweden, along with the United States and several other NATO countries, has supported the YPG in its fight against Islamic State. Turkey has vowed to block Sweden’s application if it continues to do so.

Turkey and Hungary last two NATO members with objections

The application has been approved by 28 of NATO’s 30 countries. The Nordic countries said this week they were optimistic that Hungary would also drop its objections.

“Sweden wants to join NATO to enhance our own security, but Sweden also wants to be a security provider for others,” Ulf Kristersson said.

In a letter sent a month ago, Stockholm told Ankara it had taken “concrete action” to address Turkey’s concerns, including stepping up counter-terrorism efforts against Kurdish militants, Reuters reported.

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