Sweden moves closer to NATO, lifts arms embargo on Turkey

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Would-be NATO member Sweden on Friday announced it will allow exports of arms to Turkey, which had threatened to block the Scandinavian nation’s application to join the 30-member defense alliance.

The decision means that Sweden, which has sought NATO membership along with neighboring Finland, will lift an arms embargo it had imposed on Ankara in 2019 after Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish militia known as the YPG in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to block the Nordic pair’s membership, insisting they change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists and lift the arms embargo on Turkey. NATO operates by consensus so Turkey needs to approve.

“Sweden’s application for membership in NATO greatly strengthens the defense and security policy reasons for granting the export of military equipment to other member states, including Turkey,” the Inspectorate for Strategic Products, a Swedish administrative authority, said in a statement.

Once-neutral Finland and Sweden are abandoning what in Sweden’s case has been 200 years of military nonalignment, driven to join NATO’s mutual defense pact in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its continuing war there.

Turkey’s parliament has yet to ratify Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO, and Friday’s step was widely seen as aimed at securing Ankara’s approval. A delegation from Sweden is expected in Ankara next week to discuss Turkish requests for the extradition of figures wanted by Turkey.

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