Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of senior officials from Türkiye, Sweden and Finland

  • 06 Jul. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 06 Jul. 2023 17:35

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

I have just finished chairing a productive meeting on Sweden’s membership in NATO, with delegations from Türkiye, Finland and Sweden. 

One year ago, at the Madrid Summit, all Allies agreed to invite Finland and Sweden to join our Alliance.

Finland and Sweden also signed a Trilateral Memorandum with Türkiye, paving the way for their membership.

Since then, Finland and Sweden have implemented this Memorandum, including through meetings of the Permanent Joint Mechanism to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism, organised crime, and other common challenges.

All Allies stand together against terrorism. 
And at next week’s NATO Summit, we will recommit to fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

In April, we welcomed Finland into the NATO family.
This has been a game-changer for our shared security. 

And now it is time for Sweden to join the Alliance. 

I have been clear that Sweden has delivered on the commitments it made under the trilateral memorandum.

Sweden has amended its constitution and introduced new anti-terrorist legislation.
Removed restrictions on arms exports to Türkiye.
And stepped up counter-terrorism cooperation, including against the PKK.

In the meeting we all agreed that we have made good progress.  
We all agreed that the full membership of Sweden is in the security interest of all Allies.  
And we all want to complete this process as soon as possible.  

We have seen demonstrations against Türkiye, and against NATO, in Sweden.

They want to stop Sweden from joining NATO.
To disrupt counter-terrorism cooperation.
And weaken our Alliance. 

So we must be clear-eyed. 
The only people who benefit from these provocations are those who want to divide NATO. 

Any further delay in Sweden’s membership would be welcomed by the PKK and President Putin. 

Sweden’s membership will bring major military benefits to the whole Alliance. 

Adding Sweden will allow us to plan for the defence of the entire Arctic-Nordic-Baltic region as one. 
It will provide an uninterrupted shield from the Black to the Baltic Sea region.

Sweden’s membership in NATO will make us all stronger and safer.

Today, we reaffirmed that Sweden’s membership is within reach. 
And that ratification of Sweden’s membership does not mean the end of cooperation with Türkiye.
Far from it, as Finland’s continuing engagement here today shows. 

On Monday, in Vilnius, I will convene a meeting with President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Kristersson as the next step in this process.

With that, I’m ready to take your questions.


NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We'll start with Anadolu.

Ömer Can, Anadolu: Thank you, Turkish news agency Anadolu. Mr Secretary General, you repeatedly said that Sweden has delivered on the memorandum signed in Madrid. Apparently, Turkish officials do not agree with that. Also, most recently, Sweden was at the center of reactions from the Muslim world. There was a reaction from the large part of the world. Do you think such a reaction would pose a risk to NATO, also, do you think Sweden could have an effective counterterrorism mechanism, or would it be a burden on NATO?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, there is no doubt that Sweden has made very important steps and has followed up on their commitments under the trilateral memorandum agreed in Madrid at the NATO summit last year.

Sweden has removed restrictions on arms exports and the new licenses have been granted for exports of defence material from Sweden to Türkiye. Sweden has amended its constitution to be able to strengthen its legislation, and the Swedish counterterrorism legislation has been strengthened.

Then, we have established a permanent mechanism, which is a mechanism to ensure that we have a framework to exchange information, to share intelligence, and this has taken place within the framework of the permanent mechanism, but also bilaterally between Sweden and Türkiye.

And at the meeting today we had the director of the Swedish Security Services, SÄPO, present in the room. So there was a possibility actually to go into specific issues. Also, with both the Turkish and Swedish security services, present in the meeting. And this just demonstrates a very close cooperation and the follow up of the Madrid joint memorandum.

So I'm absolutely confident that this will continue. And that was also a clear message from Sweden. Then, of course, the reason why we meet today, and also the reason why I have convened a meeting of president Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson on Monday, is to bridge the gap we still see between what Sweden has done and the understanding that Türkiye has, related to what extent Sweden has implemented the memorandum.

But the only way to solve those differences is by doing what we always do in NATO. And that is to sit down to consult and to find a way forward, and we made good progress in the meeting today. It is absolutely possible to have a positive decision at the summit next week. And we all agree that the finalization, the ratification of Swedish membership into NATO should happen as soon as possible.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, TV4

TV4: [Inaudible], TV4, Sweden. So what do you see as the next step? Is there at all possible for Sweden to be a member during the Vilnius summit? Or are we now expecting a new round of negotiations after that meeting?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: What is possible and what we are all working to achieve is a positive decision at the summit. Where Türkiye makes clear that they are ready to ratify, but then we still have some more work to do and we are working on that now. We had a meeting today, we will work over the weekend and then I will meet with the prime minister and the president on Monday. But of course, a ratification in the Turkish parliament will not happen before Monday, but we can have important political decisions. But to ensure that to happen, we will work hard from now on until Monday.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay. YLE.

Rikhard Husu, YLE: Thank you very much. Rikhard Husu, Finnish broadcasting company YLE. I was wondering if you could be more specific regarding where progress has been made in these talks. And I'm also interested in your opinion on the role of this tripartite format in general, especially from the point of view of Finland which is already a member of NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, it is agreement that Sweden has implemented and followed up on the on the trilateral agreement. The difference between Sweden and Türkiye is that Sweden says that they have followed up sufficiently to be fully ratified. And I agree with that position, that the time has come to finalize the Swedish accession and to and to ratify the Swedish accession protocols. The Turkish position is that yes, Sweden has made important steps forward, but something remains, something more has to be done.

And what we now are looking into, how can we bridge that difference, to ensure that we have a positive decision at the summit next week in Vilnius? Then, it is important that Finland is part of the permanent mechanism, and that Finland participated in meeting today. Because the agreement in Madrid was that Finland and Sweden on a permanent basis, should continue to work with Türkiye to counterterrorism and to strengthen their cooperation including when it comes to arms exports.

And therefore, I welcome the Finnish participation. Finland will not be present at the meeting on Monday, but that is because on Monday we are going to address the specific issue on how to resolve the remaining issues between Sweden and Türkiye, related to the ratification of the Swedish membership.

But both Finland and Sweden will continue to be a part of the permanent mechanism, continue to work together with Türkiye to fight terrorism. You asked me about concrete examples. Well, in the meeting today, Sweden went through the specific changes they have made on the constitution, on arms exports licenses, on strengthening the legislation and will also refer to specific cases. For instance today, there was a decision in the Swedish court to sentence a Kurdish man with attempting to extort money for a group that is outlawed in Türkiye, PKK. And that's an example of how organized crime in Sweden is closely linked to terrorist organizations in Türkiye. So, of course for Sweden, it is important to fight organized crime and also terrorism, but it highlights in a way that this is also in the interest of Sweden to fight these groups and his people, because terrorism and organized crime in Sweden is extremely closely linked, and the verdict the Swedish court today, based on the enhanced legislation is an example of that.

James Bays, Al Jazeera: James Bays from Al Jazeera. It was May last year that the two countries applied to join. I remember at the time officials saying maybe you could fast-track their entry before the Madrid Summit. Now we're a whole year on and another summit coming. How frustrating is this for Allies? And does it project disunity as you're about to gather in Vilnius? And if I could also: a quick comment on the reports that Prigogine is back in St. Petersburg?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I think we have to remember that this has been a very quick accession process. Especially of course for Finland. But Finland and Sweden applied in May last year. Already in June, they both were invited. And that hasn't happened before in NATO's modern history. And the decision to invite both Finland and Sweden led to, of course, the full membership of Finland a few months later. But it also made a huge difference for Sweden, because when Sweden got the invitee status in June, just weeks after application, Sweden started to become integrated into NATO military and civilian structures. So Sweden is already in a much better and stronger place than they were before they applied. Because by the decision of all Allies, including Türkiye, to give them the invitee status, they are now participating in NATO meetings. They sit around the NATO table, they participate in NATO's military and civilian structures. So, that is, has been an important step by itself. And then, my aim is to then finalize this process in the near future and to have a concrete and positive decision next week. So, so then it will still be a quick ratification process and one of the fastest accession process in NATO's modern history, also for Sweden. Then, on Prighozin. Well, what we can say is that we’re monitoring closely where the Wagner soldiers are moving around and also where he is moving. I'm not going into the details, but we have seen some preparations for hosting large groups of Wagner soldiers in Belarus. Sso far, we haven't seen so many of them going to Belarus. And then, we have seen Mr. Prighozin moving a bit around and I’m not going into more details on that.

Reuters: Secretary General, in terms of bridging the gap that you talked about, is there anything that Sweden can do between now and then to help bridge that gap in your opinion? Is there anything that any other Allies could do to bridge the gap, particularly the United States, in terms of bringing pressure to bear or offering things to the Turkish President that might get him to decide that now is the time to go ahead with wrath ratification?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: So this is what Swedish ratification or the ratification of the Swedish application to NATO, the Swedish accession protocols. And what is then the main focus is, of course, what has been agreed already. We agreed joint memorandum, where Sweden committed to do a specific list of things, which is related to lifting arms export restrictions; changing their legislation; engaging in closer cooperation with Türkiye on counterterrorism; and participating in the permanent mechanism. Of course, Sweden can always deliver more under those headlines. Because you can always exchange more information; you can always having closer cooperation; and you can always grant more export licenses. But I will not go into exactly what Sweden can do between now and the Summit. This is a dialogue also, which is going on between Sweden and Türkiye. When it comes to other Allies, I think that the message has been very clear from other Allies that all of them except for Hungary, have already ratified and by doing that, they have sent a very clear message that this is something they strongly believe it's good for the whole Alliance, that also Sweden becomes a full-fledged member. And in particular, the Baltic Allies, they see there value for their security to have Sweden, a Baltic nation, becoming a full member. Let me also add that, we met today and we agreed the memorandum last year, because we recognize that Türkiye has legitimate security concerns. That was stated also in the meeting today. No other Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye. PKK is a terrorist organization. They're also involved in organized crimes in many NATO Allied countries. And when we can work more closely together, when we can have decisions like we have in Sweden today, in the Swedish court, that is good for all of us. It's good for the fight against terrorism. It's good in the fight against organized crime, and it demonstrates that NATO Allies are taking the legitimate security concerns of Türkiye seriously

SVT: (inaudible) SVT. What does it mean for NATO if this process keeps on going without Sweden being accepted at the Vilnius meeting? And what has NATO offered Türkiye in this process? And last, I would like to comment on you, Mr. Secretary, have been asked to stay on for yet another year. What's your commentary on that?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, the fight against terrorism is important for all the Alliance. At the Summit we’ll actually make important decisions as an Alliance in our efforts to fight terrorism, because we will agree new plans for our deterrence and defence, new regional defence plans. And the purpose of these plans is to address our two main threats, which is Russia's aggressive actions, the threats that Russia poses to NATO Allies, but also terrorism. So when we increase the readiness of our forces, when we invest in new capabilities, when we have more exercises, when we increase our presence throughout the Alliance, then we also are stepping up in our surveillance, in our readiness to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. So NATO is stepping up in the fight against terrorism and we will make important decisions related to capabilities, to plans, at the Summit in Vilnius. The first question was about? Well, first of all, we are - my main ambition is now to get this agreed by the Summit. Of course, there's no guarantee, but we are working hard. We had a good meeting today. We are making progress. And I'm certain that we will continue to make progress over the weekend. And then, I will meet with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson. And then, hopefully, we can find common ground to make a positive decision on the completion of the Swedish accession into NATO. When it comes to myself, I can just say that I'm honored to continue to serve as Secretary General of NATO, especially now when we face the most dangerous security situation in Europe for decades with a full-fledged war, and to be able to steer the Alliance when we step up our support for Ukraine and also continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense in a way we'll do at the Summit next week.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Okay, we'll take one last question. Associated Press.

Lorne Cook, Associated Press: Lorne Cook from the Associated Press. Secretary General, you've said several times and again today that Sweden has done what is required of it. Do you today, after this meeting, understand what the President Erdogan wants. I don't expect you to tell me but do you understand exactly what's required to get this done? What Sweden needs to do?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I understand what the President Erdogan is asking for and we have met many, many times. And we have discussed them in detail and that's exactly why we have been able to make progress. We made an important step last year, after close consultations with President Erdogan. Also at the meeting in Madrid, where we sat together for many hours and were able to make an historic decision, where also Türkiye agreed to invite both Finland and Sweden. Then, we have worked since then, on the ratification. There are some unsolved issues. We are addressing them now. We'll work on it over the weekend. Meet again on Monday, and then I will be able to tell you more on the whole progress we then have hopefully made by then.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. We'll see you tomorrow. I hope for the pre summit press conference. Thank you.