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Sweden seeks to address Turkish objections to its NATO bid

Sweden's Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist reacts during the parliamentary debate about Swedish membership's bid to join NATO at the Swedish Parliment in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 16, 2022. - The parliaments in Finland and Sweden on May 16, 2022 began debating their respective NATO bids, as the two neighbours prepare to submit applications this week as a deterrent against Russian aggression. Finland officially announced its intention to join NATO on May 15, 2022 as Sweden's ruling party said it backed membership, paving the way for a joint application. (Photo by Henrik MONTGOMERY / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT

Sweden will start diplomatic discussions with Turkey to try to overcome Ankara’s objections to its plan to join NATO, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said, with a formal decision to apply for membership of the 30-nation alliance expected on Monday, Reuters reported.

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats dropped their 73-year opposition to joining NATO on Sunday and are hoping for a quick accession, following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will hold a press conference at 1300 GMT on Monday at which she is expected to officially announce plans for a NATO application, and Sweden’s top military chief Micael Byden will hold a press conference at 1430 GMT.

The decision to abandon the military non-alignment that has been a central part of Swedish national identity for more than 200 years marks a sea change in public perceptions in the Nordic region following Russia’s attack on its neighbor.

“Europe, Sweden and the Swedish people are living now in a new and dangerous reality,” Andersson said during a debate on security policy in parliament on Monday.

She said, however, that Sweden did not want NATO military bases or nuclear weapons on its territory if its membership is approved.

There is broad backing in parliament for an application, though the government does not need its approval to move forward.

Finland on Sunday also confirmed it would apply to join the Atlantic military alliance.

However, Turkey surprised its NATO allies by saying it would not view applications by Finland and Sweden positively, mainly citing their history of hosting members of Kurdish militant groups. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Scandinavian countries “guesthouses for terrorist organizations.”

“We will send a group of diplomats to hold discussions and have a dialogue with Turkey so we can see how this can be resolved and what this is really about,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told public service broadcaster SVT.

Turkey said it wanted the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militants on their territory and to lift bans on the sale of some weapons to Turkey. Turkish state media said on Monday that Sweden and Finland had rejected requests for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey alleges have links to groups it deems terrorists.

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