U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday (May 30) urged Turkey to immediately finalise Sweden's accession to NATO, saying the Nordic country had already taken significant steps to address Ankara's objections to its membership, Reuters reports.
Speaking in Lulea, northern Sweden, Blinken also rejected the suggestion that Turkey's approval of Sweden's NATO bid was linked to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara, even though U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday (May 29) alluded to a link between the two.
Addressing a joint press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister, Blinken said Washington was going to continue to work to complete Sweden's accession in time for a mid-July NATO summit that will bring together the heads of state of the alliance.
"There is no reason for any further time. Sweden is ready now. That decision should move forward now," Blinken said.
"I think it's to Turkey's credit that it's been able to focus all of the (NATO) alliance on some of these concerns. But it's to Sweden's credit...that they've taken concrete action to address those concerns."
His comments came hours after Turkey called on Sweden to prosecute those responsible for projecting the flag of an outlawed group onto the parliament building in Stockholm, on the day of Turkish elections that extended President Tayyip Erdogan's rule.
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, ditching long-held policies of military non-alignment following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Bids for membership must be approved by all NATO members but Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden's bid.
Turkey ratified Finland's NATO accession in late March, but has continued to object to Sweden, saying Stockholm harbours members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden's bid.