Sweden 'prepared' for Finland to be first to Nato finish line

Turkey not expected to lift veto on Swedish membership before elections in May

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, right, held talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. AP
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Sweden is prepared for the fact that it may not be welcomed into Nato as soon as its neighbour Finland, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Wednesday.

Mr Kristersson said his hope was that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would lift his veto following Turkish elections in May.

It came as Mr Erdogan hinted Turkey was on the verge of approving the application from Finland, whose President Sauli Niinisto is expected in Ankara on Thursday.

“We will meet with the president and fulfil the promise we made,” Turkish media quoted Mr Erdogan as saying.

Sweden and Finland applied for Nato membership last year and signed a pact agreeing to harden their stance on Kurdish dissidents in exchange for Turkey’s support.

But Ankara’s continued objections have held up the process and are aimed especially at Sweden, not least after the burning of a copy of the Quran outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm.

Mr Kristersson said Swedish officials “don’t hide at all” that they “preferred to be ratified together”, but acknowledged that Turkey had the right to ratify Finland first.

“We are prepared for that situation,” he said on a visit to Germany.

“Of course, we hope for a rapid ratification process after the Turkish election and we feel very comfortable in all the support we have received from other Nato allies.”

All Nato members except Turkey and Hungary have ratified the applications from Sweden and Finland.

Hungarian MPs began considering the two applications this month, while Turkey’s parliament has until mid-April before it dissolves for the May election.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he hoped the two countries would soon join Nato and described their accession as critical “for our security”.

He said their applications had moved quickly by historical standards, despite the Turkish delay.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested his country could soon approve Finland's Nato application. AP

Ukraine talks

The meeting in Berlin came as Nato defence ministers and allies held their latest round of talks on military aid to Ukraine.

The 54-member Ramstein group was urged by the US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to show “resolve and unity” and keep arming Ukraine into the spring and summer.

He called on Ukraine’s military donors to provide the spare parts and maintenance needed.

“We are now at a crucial time in the course of Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” he said.

Mr Austin said the US would continue to fly its aircraft “wherever international law allows,” after an American drone was confronted by a Russian warplane near Ukraine.

He accused Russian pilots of “dangerous, reckless and unprofessional practices” after Washington said the US drone was brought down over the Black Sea.

Moscow gave a different account, saying the drone came down of its own accord after sharp manoeuvring when Russia scrambled jets.

Russia regards US activity “in close proximity to our borders” as unacceptable, its ambassador in Washington Anatoly Antonov said.

UK and German planes separately intercepted a Russian refuelling aircraft that was flying close to Nato airspace, Britain’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

It said the Russian IL78 Midas plane had failed to communicate with air traffic control in Estonia while flying between St Petersburg and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

Updated: March 15, 2023, 3:20 PM