Sweden accession talks to be held in Brussels ahead of July NATO summit

NATO is still consulting on Sweden joining the alliance, despite continued Turkish protest, ahead of the organisation's summit next month in Lithuania. NATO is also preparing a new expansion of its military capability, which would put more than 300,000 soldiers on increased alert. The plan is expected to be given the green light at the summit.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, said on Monday that he had spoken to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who "agreed to convene a high-level meeting in Brussels before the summit". "The aim is to make progress in finalising Sweden's accession to NATO," Stoltenberg said.

Almost unanimous

The consultations in Brussels will include "foreign ministers, intelligence chiefs and national security advisers", Stoltenberg said. It is unclear exactly when those consultations will take place.

The leaders of the 31 NATO countries and candidate member Sweden will meet on 11 July in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Almost all allies want Sweden to be able to participate in the summit as a full member, but Hungary and Turkey continue to obstruct this scenario.

In early April, Finland's bid to join NATO was accepted, making it the alliance's 31st member. Both Finland and Sweden applied for membership in May 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Although Ukraine will not be invited to join the alliance in Vilnius, Stoltenberg hopes that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky will want to take a seat at the meeting table as part of the new NATO-Ukraine defence council. However, Ukraine will not get preferential treatment for joining NATO, US president Joe Biden said ahead of the meeting. Ukraine, too, "will have to respect all the criteria", he said.

"NATO will have more than 300,000 soldiers at a higher state of readiness" in order to "defend every inch of allies' territory"

Another topic up for discussion is a planned expansion of NATO's military capability. "As a result, NATO will have more than 300,000 soldiers at a higher state of readiness, and reinforced with significant air and sea capabilities" in order to "defend every inch of allies' territory against every threat", Stoltenberg said. The plan is expected to be given the green light in Vilnius.



Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general © PHOTO PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP

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