STOCKHOLM: Sweden will not negotiate with Hungary over its application to join NATO, which Budapest is the sole member of the alliance to yet ratify, Swedish Prime Minster Ulf Kristersson said on Friday.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, however, said he now expected Hungary’s parliament to give a green light at the end of next month.
Sweden, along with Finland, applied to join the alliance in 2022.
But its membership has been held up by Turkiye and Hungary, leaving the country in limbo and frustrating NATO allies, who see Sweden as a key player in ensuring security in the Baltic region.
Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed Sweden’s accession documents on Thursday, leaving Hungary as the last holdout.
The Swedish and Hungarian prime ministers will meet at the European Council meeting in Brussels next week, but Kristersson said Sweden would not make any new promises on NATO.
“No demands related to NATO membership — that’s not on the table,” Kristersson told Sweden’s TV4.
However, he said the two countries had much to discuss, including cooperation inside NATO, Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency, support for Ukraine, and how to get the widest synergies from their air forces sharing the same fighter jet program — Sweden’s JAS Gripen.
All of NATO’s 31 members have to ratify an applicant country’s accession before it can join the alliance, and Orban has been angered by Swedish criticism of democratic developments under his government.
He has invited Kristersson to Budapest for negotiations over NATO, but he also repeated on Wednesday that his country supports Swedish membership.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Erdogan said Turkiye was now awaiting the US move on the F-16 sale and that Congress should respond to Biden’s letter “as soon as possible.”
“We are waiting for this. Of course, the outcome that will come from there as soon as possible will allow us, God willing, to start the process of the F-16s being sent to Turkiye, as well as all the repair and maintenance matters,” he said.
Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Blinken were in close contact and managing the process, Erdogan said.
Stoltenberg said he expected Hungary’s parliament to ratify Sweden’s accession when it reconvenes at the end of February.
“So we have to wait for that,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Friday.
“But I am confident and I count on Hungary that the ratification of Sweden will be ratified as soon as the parliament reconvenes at the end of February.”
Kristersson said he did not know when Sweden would become NATO’s 32nd member, but expected it to be “very soon.”