Sweden and Germany say Nato expansion on track despite Turkish doubts

Nato applicant Sweden says it is abiding by extradition agreement with Ankara

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson met in Stockholm on Tuesday. EPA
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Sweden said on Tuesday it was abiding by the extradition agreement drawn up with Turkey to smooth its path to Nato membership, as doubts persist over whether Ankara will approve the alliance's expansion.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said a first extradition to Turkey announced last week was carried out under Swedish and international law as envisaged by the agreement.

She spoke at a press conference with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said he believed the accession process for Sweden and its neighbour Finland was on track.

Both Nordic countries turned a page on decades of neutrality and applied to join Nato after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, seeking protection from their newly hostile and unpredictable neighbour to the east.

Turkey held up the process while it sought assurances that Sweden and Finland would root out Kurdish terrorists, leading to an agreement in late June on extradition of terrorism suspects and other matters.

Despite the agreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that he was still willing to "freeze the process" if Sweden and Finland do not take the necessary steps.

Their applications to join Nato must be approved by all 30 existing members, of whom 23 have given the green light so far.

The leaders of Turkey, Finland, Sweden and Nato reached an agreement in June to unblock the Nordic membership applications. Reuters

"I'm very confident that the states that have not yet ratified it will do so soon, including Turkey," Mr Scholz said on his visit to Stockholm.

"I am confident that it will now happen very quickly. I don't want to commit to a date, but I think we can see that everyone is trying to rapidly bring this to an end."

Ms Andersson, who has an election coming up, said Sweden would continue to abide by the memorandum of understanding signed with Turkey and Finland at Nato's Madrid summit in June.

The agreement said Turkish deportation requests for terrorism suspects would be addressed "expeditiously and thoroughly" and that Finland and Sweden would clamp down on financing and recruitment by Kurdish insurgent group PKK.

"The cases of extradition that are being processed in Sweden will of course be processed according to Swedish and international law. That is also something that we agreed upon," Ms Andersson said.

Sweden has received assurances from Germany, Britain and others that they would step in if the country came under attack during the interim period before it joins Nato.

The decision to apply for membership came after cross-party talks and a security review in May that said Russia's actions had worsened Sweden's security environment.

The review said bilateral arrangements and a fledgling European Union defence policy were no substitute for Nato's Article 5 mutual defence guarantee, underwritten by American military firepower.

While Sweden has no land border with Russia, Finland's accession would more than double the length of the Nato-Russia frontier in what western analysts have described as a spectacular own goal by the Kremlin.

Updated: August 16, 2022, 12:58 PM